County Planning Board reviews senior housing complex plan

The proposed location, which is 30 River St. in the city of Cortland, could have a senior housing complex on site in the near future. (Photo Source: Kevin L. Smith of The Cortland Voice).

A three-story, 53-unit senior apartment building at 30 River St. is moving along in the city of Cortland.

Before the project can be completed, the Cortland County Planning Board has issued several recommendations at its November Planning Board meeting prior to the project’s construction. 

The project was originally going to bring in 51 housing units, but site planner Ed Keplinger, a partner at the Keplinger Freeman Associates architecture and engineering firm, announced at the meeting the Cortland Housing Assistance Council (HAC) was moving forward with 53 units. Six of those units would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The project also includes 54 parking spaces. 

The HAC’s proposed project would need to provide a lighting plan to the city and it would need to stay in compliance with zoning laws regarding parking and environmental impacts. The project is subject to a site-plan review with the county planning board due to its location within 500 feet of Interstate-81.

During the site-plan review, Alex Schultz, the county’s interim planning director, said the current proposal does not mention the location and type of exterior lighting planned for the property.

“As well as the location of exterior signs,” he said. “It is recommended the applicant provide a lighting plan to the city showing compliance with zoning code and providing general site compatibility.”

For parking, city code calls for multi-family dwellings to provide at least 1.5 parking spaces per unit.

“We recommend that the applicant either revise the site plan to provide a minimum of 77 off-street parking spaces or apply for and obtain an area variance to gain relief from the minimum parking requirements of code of the city of Cortland,” Schultz said.

Schultz noted the board also recommends the project to include “at least two trees and/or shrubs every 10 linear feet in all required buffer strips.”

The current site plan shows a front yard setback of well over 40 feet, which is the threshold for a front yard setback according to city code.

“It is therefore recommended that the applicant either revise the site plan to provide a maximum front yard setback of 40 feet or apply for and obtain an area variance to gain relief from the maximum front yard requirement in the code,” Schultz said.

Another recommendation is to seek guidance from city officials regarding placing a buffer along the shared lot line with adjacent parcels. Keplinger said the HAC has already spoken to the neighboring owners who own a fence dividing the lots. Keplinger said they want to make sure they don’t install another fence so close to theirs.

The county planning board also recommended that the HAC follow basic erosion and sediment control practices during construction so that sediment doesn’t reach the creek along River Street.

“We also recommend that the mature woody shrubs present along the river frontage be preserved to the greatest extent practicable,” Schultz said.

The project must also have a landscaping plan be updated to use native New York species to “the greatest extent practicable.”

Additionally, the following environmental recommendations were issued:

  • That the applicant obtains a construction stormwater general permit
  • That the applicant prepare and provide a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) to both the city and the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for review and approval
  • That the site plan is reviewed and approved by the Cortland Fire Department

Keplinger said the HAC has already met with DEC officials to review stormwater plans. 

“We are able to move our facilities out of the floodplain. We would be discharging stormwater to the river, and the DEC suggested that is how we should address stormwater,” he said. “We will be getting a floodplain development permit with the city for the work within the floodplain. DEC is on board with our new approach. We have an acceptable stormwater plan for them.”

The HAC has also applied for a site variance regarding the number of parking spots necessary. According to Keplinger, HAC is following studies that suggest senior housing facilities only require to provide about .67 parking spaces per unit due to reduced car traffic.

County legislator and minority leader Beau Harbin submitted a recommendation for HAC to be in communication with County Mobility Manager Melissa Potter regarding public transportation opportunities for seniors.

“I have talked to her so there is discussion,” said HAC Executive Director Shawna Grinnell. “She knows all about the project. She is requesting a grant for a bus shelter and we are working with her as far as making this a bus stop.”