ITHACA, N.Y. — A 36-unit market-rate townhouse project just outside Varna has been submitted to the town of Dryden planning board for its consideration.

The $4.5 million dollar project, dubbed the “Evergreen Townhouses”, is proposed for a 6.54 acre property at 1061 Dryden Road, just east of the hamlet near the F. H. Fox rail bridge. The Voice first broke news of the project last May, but detailed drawings and specifics of the building plans had not been available until now.

At about 5.5 housing units per acre, the project exceeded the existing zoning (~4.5 units per acre), and the zoning didn’t allow for the clustering of housing units. As a result, the Evergreen Townhouses were required to apply for Dryden’s “Planned Unit Development” (PUD) zoning, a specialized form of zoning that allows for clustered housing and more flexibility in site planning, and would permit the project to continue with the review process. The Dryden planning board and the Dryden town board have to agree to and sign off on PUD zones.

Neighbors and other Varna residents have spoken in opposition to the townhouses, saying that their size and density are inappropriate for the 900-person hamlet, and they have expressed disappointment that the townhomes will be rentals instead of owner-occupied units. After some debate and discussion, the planning board gave its consent to the PUD, and the town board approved the PUD zoning last October, with a couple of minor project adjustments.

According to the 235-page site plan review (SPR) submission from TWMLA landscape architect Kim Michaels on behalf of developer Gary Sloan, each of the 36 units will be two stories and have a garage, 1.5 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms. The units are clustered in six groups of six units on 2.11 acres – the rest of the land would be green space, with undeveloped natural areas, a lawn with a picnic space, gazebo and fire pit. A 740-foot long asphalt path to be built and deeded to Dryden as part of the town’s Dryden-Freeville Rail Trail.

The SPR notes that the units, designed by Ithaca’s HOLT Architects, are designed with broad porches and chamfered corners to minimize their bulk. Exterior materails include stone veneer, wood trim, vinyl lap siding, and vinyl shake siding to simulate shingles.

evergreen townhouses solar panels

In a nod towards the town’s increasing push towards renewable energies, each row of townhouses will be outfitted with an array of solar panels designed by Ithaca’s Taitem Engineering, which will supply a total of about 124 kilowatts of energy, or a little over one-third of the typical energy consumption of 36 housing units.

At this point, with the town’s planning department (hired staff) having had their first look at the plans, the town planning board (appointed citizens) will be reviewing and critiquing the proposal at their meeting at the town hall on Thursday the 22nd. A special meeting is planned at the Varna Community Center on March 1st at 7 PM so that residents of the hamlet will have ample opportunity to review and comment as well. After that, assuming everything is acceptable, a public hearing will be arranged and the Dryden town board will vote on whether or not to award final approval at a later date.

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at