Photo by Seth DeCroce

TRUMANSBURG, N.Y. — The Village of Trumansburg has existed in some form for over 225 years. Village leaders are hoping residents can spare an evening next month to figure out what the next chapter in the village’s long history should look like.

Trumansburg has come a long way since Hermon Camp, the “Overlord of Tompkins County”, controlled the hamlet with an iron fist. In its halcyon days, it was a mill town for the nearby farmers of Ulysses and Covert, a place to sell and buy wares, to worship and to socialize, a hub of activity in its little corner of the world.

The village, incorporated in 1872, took on a more industrial flavor as the farms merged or shut down and modest factories began to spring up, though never on a large scale. As Ithaca grew in prominence and size to its southeast, Trumansburg increasingly found itself in the city’s sphere of influence.

The village itself never had the suburban appeal that the cul-de-sacs and of Ithaca town did, nor were there enough rural commuter homesteads to let its old bones thrive; towards the end of the twentieth century, it stagnated, a cozy but careworn place to get gas or pick up a few quick groceries at the Shur-Fine just outside village lines.

In the past 15 years, with the renewed interest in urban cores both big and small, the old and dated has become the new hot dish. With the coming of Grassroots, unique restaurants, eclectic stores and renewed interest from tourists and locals alike, the village has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, with all the blessings and curses that go with it. Some people react to the moniker “Little Ithaca” with amusement; to others, it’s about as offensive as an f-bomb in church.

Trumansburg finds itself at a crossroads. Housing costs are on the rise, making affordability a major concern. The village is increasingly a tourism hub of the Finger Lakes; should be that be encouraged or downplayed? Trumansburg is surrounded by and includes some farmland and natural land; what if these are eyed by development? Is uncultivated, natural land preferable to working farms? If development happens along some of the parking lots and underused spaces on Main Street, what should development there look like? Auto-centric, or a pedestrian-friendly main drag?

It’s lot of food for thought, and generally, no two minds will think alike to all the questions. That’s why the village would like to hear from residents as it seeks to update its Comprehensive Plan and zoning code. The plan was last updated over a decade ago and is in need of revision, as goals have changed, certain issues have been addressed and mitigated, and new issues have arisen.

“The Villages’ first Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2008. Now, more than a decade later, we are revisiting the plan, celebrating what we have accomplished, uncovering what work that is left to do, and understanding how our communal vision for the future has evolved over the years,” said Village Trustee and Comprehensive Plan Revision Committee Chair Ben Darfler.

“Personally, I’m hoping this process creates a robust community conversation about how we ensure Trumansburg remains vibrant, welcoming, and sustainable as we move into the 2020s and beyond,” said Darfler. “We want to devise a comprehensive plan that works with today’s shifting economic and social realities rather than playing defense. We have a lot to be grateful for in Trumansburg and to keep those aspects that we cherish we need to keep shifting with the times.”

In the next few years, the village is likely to see a number of substantial changes. After years of discussion and debate, the Crescent Way/Village Grove project by INHS and local businesswoman Claudia Brenner is nearly approved. If built, it will bring dozens of new homes and apartments to the village during the early 2020s, the largest development in many years. Meanwhile, a possible cultural and performing arts center, housing and other uses at the new GrassRoots property could expand the boundaries of the village for the first time in over a century. For a village of 1,800, these are big considerations, as are projects like the ongoing school renovations and ever-growing concerns about environmental sustainability in a village where the typical building is over a hundred years old.

Work on updating the Comprehensive Plan has been ongoing since last year, when a Request for Proposal was issued to find qualified planning consultants interested in helping the village through the process. In February 2019, the village selected Environmental Design and Research D.P.C. (EDR), of Syracuse to assist in the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning revision, including community feedback, drafting new zoning and planning language, and making sure the village is communicating in plans and property use legalese what the community sees as its overall social, physical and environmental goals in the years ahead.

“The intent of the meeting is to introduce the community to the project that is currently underway. We will review the basics of comprehensive planning and zoning, what the committee has been working on so far, and ask for feedback on a new draft vision statement and input on the strengths and limitations of the Village as well as opportunities and challenges facing the Village,” said Darfler.

According to a press release provided by the village government, there will be three public meetings. At the first meeting, “(t)he Comprehensive Plan Update Committee and project consultants from Environmental Design & Research will present an overview of the project. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts on issues and opportunities in the Village. The Comprehensive Plan is a crucial foundation for future decision-making and for leveraging external revenue sources such as grants for Village improvements. The Project Committee seeks input and feedback from all interested residents.”

For those looking to hear what the village has to say, and contribute their own two cents (or rather, two dollars, 225 years of inflation will do that), the public meeting with the project team will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21 at the Trumansburg Fire Department at 74 West Main Street.

More information about the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning revision can be found on the village’s website here.

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