October 23, 2021

Rezoning resistance builds

Town Board reads letters, hears speakers

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Traffic flows north on Tompkins Street in Cortlandville, past the former Wilcox Tire building. The Planning Board has unanimously opposed the Town Board’s plan to rezone the area from B-2 to B-3.

CORTLANDVILLE — Resistance is building to a Cortlandville Town Board plan to rezone a half-mile stretch of Route 13, including unanimous opposition from the town Planning Board and a number of letters and speakers Wednesday night.

Among the 16 correspondences given to the Town Board was a letter from Planning Board Chairwoman Katherine Wickwire, drafted after the Planning Board voted Tuesday to oppose the plan, which would allow gas stations to be developed over the town’s sole-source aquifer with a special permit.

“I am against the NYS Rt. 13 request by the Cortlandville Town Board, as presented to the Cortlandville Planning Board,” Wickwire wrote. “When looking at rezoning, one has to take into consideration why it was zoned B-2 to begin with and what has changed to make this B-3.”

Wickwire said the Planning Board is against the rezoning. “We worked very hard to get the zoning correct,” she said.

The zone was created to protect residential areas from heavy commercial developments, Wickwire said. It allows small business and commercial ventures; a B-3 allows larger commercial development similar to the plazas on Route 281.

Sonbyrne Sales Inc., which runs Byrne stores and gas stations, requested approval to build a gas station and store at the former Willcox Tire site. But rezoning a single parcel is illegal, so the town is considering rezoning the entire stretch between McLean Road and the city line to B-3.

The Planning Board’s goal in recommending the Town Board not rezone is to leave the section of Route 13 as a transitional area with a lot of residential property, Wickwire said. “Nothing has changed there to want to change it from B-2 to B-3,” she said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

During the Town Board meeting Wednesday night, six people spoke in opposition of the zoning change.

Sean Mack, a Cortlandville homeowner and real estate broker, said Cortlandville has other zones that would allow for large commercial developments, mainly further down Tompkins Street, Route 281 and Luker Road.

“There must be a lot of commercially zoned real estate in Cortlandville,” Mack said. “And I don’t understand why there is a need to change that particular zone.”

“I am pleading with you not to make that spot zone to allow … whatever is proposed on that land there,” said Andrea Rankin of 437 McLean Road.

No decision was made on the zoning issue during the meeting.

Town Supervisor Richard Tupper said after the meeting that while the opponents of the zoning change feel it is over one applicant, the board is actually looking at the zoning for growth. “We need growth and expansion,” Tupper said. “We are open to anything to encourage it.”

Tupper said that the area presents high traffic volume, which could change development along it.

Tupper had said the board asked Town Attorney John Folmer to draft a law that would change zoning of land along Route 13 from McLean Road to the Cortland city line to B-3.

Businesses allowed in B-2 zones include retail stores, bakeries, drug stores, dry cleaners, banks, restaurants, indoor theaters, animal shelters, veterinary clinics and automobile dealerships. A B-3 zone, such as routes 13 and 281, also allows high-volume businesses, including shopping centers and hotels.

The town had previously considered opening B-2 and B-3 districts to gas station development. Proposed legislation drafted by Folmer and submitted to the Town Board in October 2015 would redefine “gasoline stations” and “filling stations” as “retail petroleum sales facilities.” The board has since abandoned that proposal.