Jason Fane at an unrelated City Hall meeting this summer

Ithaca, N.Y. — Unsure if you support a proposed tax abatement for a new Jason Fane development downtown?

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A public hearing held Wednesday night may have done little to resolve any ambivalence.

Officials, city staff and local residents gave an assortment of reasons to either support or reject tax relief that the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency may provide to the developer for a 17,330-square-foot, 36 unit housing development proposed for 130 East Clinton Street.

Jason Fane at a prior meeting

Before the hearing began, Heather Filiberto of Tompkins County Area Development noted that the proposed development meets the IDA technical guidelines for financial assistance for local developments.

About two dozen people attended the meeting. Here’s a round-up of what they said:

Quotes in favor of the abatement for Fane’s development:

Ignore the developer’s personal popularity: I believe these tax abatement questions are very simple things and I do not believe these are popularity contests … I feel strongly that the abatement should be granted in this project.

— Michael Cannon, former president of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

What’s key is to continue to grow downtown. This development does that: “It doesn’t take long to remember that most of the development that was occurring in our community was not occurring in the urban core … the aim of this program was to help developers and investors to put developments in the urban core where we wanted them.

“This developer has chosen to invest in the downtown area … ‘Why (incentivize) people with means?’ To me it’s an interesting question and a relatively straightforward one: I don’t build big real estate buildings … buildings get built by people with means.”

— Gary Ferguson, current head of the DIA.

Housing, transportation improved by Fane’s project: “This is a project that will provide much needed housing closer to downtown; hopefully, it will provide residents with the opportunity to walk rather than to drive their cars … I ask you to put personalities aside and look at the merits of this project.”

— JoAnn Cornish, director of Planning & Economic Development for Ithaca

Market calls for 1 bedroom apartments like those in Fane’s project“We need more housing. It’s a very nice project — the apartments are 1 bedroom apartments; they’re needed — that’s what the market is looking for.”

— Phyllis DeSarno, deputy director of economic development for Ithaca.

… And quotes in opposition:

Not the right site for aesthetic/neighborhood/environmental reasons: “This site is about the worst possible site for putting so much housing … Our creeks and gorges are extremely special.”

— Betsey Darlington, area resident since the 1960’s.

Fane’s bad reputation is relevant: “His practices have left an exceedingly long trail of bitterness and anger … I urge you to consider Mr. Fane’s record and deny his request for tax abatement.”

“I understand that this is not a popularity contest but you have to keep Mr. Fane’s sorry record in mind. Anyone who has lived here for any length of time … is aware of Mr. Fane’s empty storefronts in Collegetown, the Commons, his long-standing neglect in the deterioration of the masonic temple … or they’ve heard stories of his deceit or sudden rent increases that force businesses to close.”

— Ashley Miller, an area resident since 1969.

Neighborhood development not enhanced: “Limited public funds should be reserved for the most deserving and worthwhile projects … this project will not enhance the quality of the neighborhood.” — Brian Eden, Cayuga Heights.

Just because it’s a development downtown doesn’t mean it will reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: “We’re trying to encourage downtown building owners to reduce their carbon footprints … I don’t see that happening in this case.

— Peter Bardaglio, president of the wind farm company Black Oak Wind.

County legislator opposes development: “I am familiar with the site that is being proposed for development … it is a site that if I were an engineer or an architect I would love it — it would be a great challenge because it’s really a site that should not be built on …

“Not every vacant piece of land needs to be built on; and this one in particular makes very little sense to me because of its fragile nature.”

— Dooley Kiefer, Tompkins County legislator

The IDA will be voting on this issue in the legislative chambers Thursday, December 11 at 4 p.m. The public will be able to comment.

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.