April 1, 2013
Mayor lays out 2013 agenda
Higher density zoning, Main St. development among goals
Mayor Brian Tobin counted Main Street, housing and youth development as three major focuses for the coming year in his State of the City address Saturday, but said major changes would be needed to keep taxes in the city manageable.
Speaking in front of a small group at a residential facility at 51 Port Watson St., Tobin recounted the success of the past year and spoke on the goals he has for the city Common Council for 2013.
Main Street would be a continued point of emphases for the city in the coming year, he said. Improvements to parking and security on the thoroughfare are in the works, as ideas such as cameras on Main Street are being considered.
As well as promoting more live events downtown, the council is reviewing a law that would “enhance the ability of property owners to develop their upper stories on Main Street, which will eliminate vacancies and keep our downtown a showpiece. Passing this legislation will have a tremendous impact on our growth,” Tobin said.
The mayor pressed the need for higher density zoning. Current zoning laws limit the number of occupants and discourage different types of housing growth, said Tobin. He said he would be pushing this in lieu of the city’s recently passed Comprehensive Plan.
Cortland has not seen an appreciable increase in funding from the state, however. “The new Sales Tax Agreement decreases the amount of revenue that the city was receiving while increasing the county’s share,” Tobin said.
He said despite this year’s property tax increase of less than 1 percent, major changes would need to be considered to keep it down.
Consolidation is a path the city is pursuing, he said.
“We have discussed this for a couple of years now. This is a topic that must be discussed and moved on; otherwise the city will have to eliminate programs and services that many consider vital to the entire community,” Tobin said.
On capital projects, he cited an agreement with Byrne Dairy in handling its proposed new facility’s wastewater through the city’s treatment plant as a big boon to the county, bringing in a “large respected business” by “establishing competitive costs that would allow Cortland County to be an attractive site.”
Tobin added that major upgrades are being planned for the treatment facility over the next couple of years to make it a more efficient and effective plant.
In balancing the city’s budget, Tobin said getting various labor unions to agree to a more cost-effective health care plan under the Tompkins County Health Care Consortium and limiting city employee salary increases to 1 percent were key developments.
He pointed to areas of community growth, citing the Youth Bureau’s new building at Beaudry Park and crediting 1st Ward Alderman Julie Bird for the relocation of a proposed community garden to an area near the city-owned former armory on Wheeler Avenue.
On Wickwire Pool, Tobin said, “We are still working on funding ... and I am pleased to announce that a class at SUNY Cortland has been helping to raise funds for this valuable community resource.” Communication students have held two fundraisers so far and plan two more.
The mayor spoke to accountability and transparency in government. The city, he said, has joined 70 other government entities in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initiative for openness by having financial data listed on open.ny.gov. The website allows Cortland to compare itself financially to other subscribed municipalities, and gives the public an easy look into the city’s financial picture.
“We will have more information on this site in the next month,” Tobin said.
Accessibility for visitors to the city was being addressed through the city’s two Community Gateway projects, he said. The Clinton Avenue and Homer Avenue gateways will “build pride in our community and create a good first impression of our community for visitors.”
He praised the fire department for one of its recent initiatives giving out free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to residents, as well as inspections. Funded through grants, the program will “protect homes and make everyone safer,” Tobin said.
The mayor said the city will be better prepared for the legion of crows this year, though he noted that the problem appeared improved from last year.
He said he expects them to return, and is planning accordingly.
“We invested in a sidewalk sweeper, and are looking into additional deterrents to keep them from choosing to roost in Cortland,” he said.
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