Cortland mayor and city commission discuss redevelopment (Audio Included)

The city of Cortland Planning Commission at Monday’s meeting. (Photo Source: Kevin L. Smith of The Cortland Voice).

A proposed local law that would give the Cortland Common Council authority over special use permits for vacant or unoccupied properties where the original permitted use is no longer feasible was the subject of discussion at Monday’s city planning commission meeting.

The local law is meant to shift some of the conditions for the redevelopment of a property to the common council. The special use permit approval must be preceded by a declaration of the council that the proposed repurpose for the vacant or unoccupied building serves a substantial public benefit, the law states. A “substantial public benefit” would be defined by the council on a case-by-case basis.

After the council approves a request for a special use permit on a vacant property, that request would then go to the city of Cortland Planning Commission. The planning commission is described in the law as an advisory board in the law, which also dictates that the Common Council is the final authority on the matter.

“In the past, we’ve had properties that don’t fit into zoning that have needed to be moved into other areas,” said city mayor Scott Steve at Monday’s meeting. He mentioned the Parker School building and the currently in-construction 911 Center in the city as examples.

“I'm thinking the more people look at these permits, the more public you make it, the better it works,” Steve said.

Brendan McGovern, a member of the city’s planning commission, said the law makes the planning commission “give up too much of (their) power.”

“There are mechanisms in place to deal with situations like this,” McMahon said. “I just personally see this as an overreach, frankly, by the city council.”

McGovern also raised concerns about the council being able to dictate what a public benefit is depending on the case based on the proposed law.

“Public benefit use would be what benefits the public as a general use, and that's pretty generic, but it’s pretty specific,” Steve said in response.

McGovern said he is concerned about a potential council lineup down the road that could decide not to listen to the planning commission’s recommendations.

“They do not have to take them into account,” he said.

Steve replied that voters would hold those members of the council accountable. He also said the planning commission would have a say in the special use permits.

McGovern noted he wanted the county planning board to review the local law due to it substantially affecting how the city’s planning commission conducts business.

The city’s planning commission unanimously voted to send the law to the county planning board for further review.

Below is a recorded version of the planning commission’s discussion with the mayor at Monday’s meeting.