ULYSSES, N.Y.—Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services (CARS) has had plans for a new women’s facility in the town of Ulysses for years. After the first effort was sidelined at the start of the COVID pandemic, the rehabilitation services provider is trying again with a revised plan in the same location.
The original 9,270 square-foot proposal at 6621 Mecklenburg Road/State Route 227 called for a 25-bed facility to service female clients, just north of an existing 60-bed CARS facility that provides in-patient care and counseling for men recovering from the ravages of chemical dependency. Approval was granted in December 2019, with the intent to start construction in the spring of 2020.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic erupted and the plans were thrown off course by the uncertainty that enveloped the world. The site plan approval, which was only valid for 18 months, lapsed during the interim.
That disruption and the intervening few years gave time for CARS to re-evaluate its needs and how to serve the needs of its clients best. This past March, CARS became an affiliate of the Cayuga Health System after a two-year acquisition process. That same month, CARS submitted revised concept plans for the long-delayed women’s facility in Ulysses.
The core elements remain the same — a two-story detached building to provide in-patient care and counseling for up to 25 women recovering from chemical dependency. However, the new proposal is a larger building overall, with an approximate size of 13,385 square feet, almost 50% bigger than the previously-approved submission. The 26-space parking area, sidewalks, lighting, storm-water facilities and landscaping will also be revised to accommodate the larger structure.
Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst (FFAE) Architects remains the firm in charge of building design. Alongside them are Advanced Design Group of Lewiston as civil engineers, Rochester’s Ravi Engineering and Land Surveying as structural engineers, and IBC Engineering to do the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering.
The new building would not impact existing services and facilities. CARS will continue to maintain services at its location in downtown Ithaca on West State Street, as well as the men’s facility nearby. No explicit construction timeline has been given for the project yet — perhaps some reluctance after what happened in 2020 — but construction is expected to last about 19 months once it begins.
Discussion of the project has been ongoing at the town of Ulysses Planning Board, including Tuesday night. The project is located in an Agricultural/Rural (A/R) Zone, which only allows rehabilitation facilities following approval of a Special Use Permit and Site Plan Review.
Two zoning area variances are required for the proposal to move forward: to permit a second principal building on a lot, as the 34.41-acre property already hosts the men’s building on its south side, and to exceed the 5,000 square feet maximum permitted floor area for a new nonagricultural building. The Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to hold a public hearing on these variances Wednesday evening.
FFAE Architect Ivan Garcia reviewed the plans for the board and CARS CEO Jessica Janssen gave a brief history of the project.
“This project has been in the works since 2017, it took a bit of a pause during COVID. It is designed to be a 25-bed women’s rehabilitation, 24/7 supervised facility for those struggling with substance use disorder,” Jansen said. “They would typically be there (at the facility) three to six months and coming from a higher level of care where they had been receiving supervised services.”
During public comment, a neighbor who had lived in the area since 1966 spoke favorably about CARS and its staff, though stressed she did not want any floodlights or high-intensity lighting on the site. Vivien Rose, of Trumansburg, chimed in to suggest using a color of light more gentle on the wildlife and surrounding area.
“I would want to see lighting that addresses the concerns that were raised tonight,” said Planning Board Chair Pete Angie. “Downcast lighting, shield lighting. I know the headlights from cars coming and going from the parking lot have been intrusive on the neighbors, shifts change at 10 o’clock. Is there some kind of buffer or low fence that would mitigate the effects on the neighbors? Grasses, or shrubs, something that will last through the winter?”
Garcia said they would have to take a look at the existing building to address that, but they could certainly work lighting redirection downward in the new building. Jansen said they would reconsider existing lighting, but she viewed it as separate from this proposal.
“This is about how part of the impact can be mitigated overall,” Angie replied.
Garcia suggested a conifer row, to which Angie noted they would need 10 days to look it over.
With that, the project’s Public Hearing was held open until the board’s next meeting. The conversation was cordial and barring any unexpected developments, the project would appear to be on track for approval by the end of summer or early fall.