December 1, 2021

Order further delays C’ville projects

Construction work on hold as town’s state of emergency pushed until May 15

Cortland County Seal

Developer Jim Reeners understands why Cortlandville Supervisor Tom Williams extended a state of the emergency in the town until May 15, but the delays in “non-essential” construction are painful.

“As I see it, every construction is essential,” said Reeners, the controlling partner of Cornerstone Properties LLC. “People have to feed their families.”

Williams issued an executive order this week extending the town’s state of emergency, which was set to expire Tuesday, until May 15, mirroring state actions. The order keeps the Raymond G. Thorpe Municipal Building closed and cancels meetings of public bodies that manage town business.

This includes Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board meetings, which will be postponed to at least June 2, said Bruce Weber, the town’s zoning and planning officer.

In compliance with state guidelines, only construction deemed essential, including road work and construction on health care facilities, will be allowed to continue during the virus pandemic.

In Cortlandville, that means only two projects will continue, Williams said: fixing a sewer line near Hillside Drive; and installing a system in the town’s main production well near Lime Hollow that increases the contact time to mix chlorine and water.

“At this point, we’re saying ‘let’s put it on hold and wait and see,’” Williams said.

Before the pandemic halted progress, two planned projects were in different phases in the town: A 5-megawatt solar project on 24 acres off Locust Avenue and a 5.2-acre, 30-unit senior housing facility, said Cortland County Planning Director Dan Dineen.

“They’re doing what they have to do,” Reeners said. “Where the contact has to be is in Albany.”

The Cortland County Planning Department recommended in March the town approve a conditional permit, site plan and area variances for Reener’s senior housing project, before the coronavirus pandemic brought the cancellation of public meetings in the town.

In its current phase, the project still needs approval from Cortlandville’s Planning Board, which won’t meet until at least June.

Reeners, though, said that while the halt on non-essential construction for projects like his may be applicable in largely hit parts of the state, like New York, he said that it didn’t make much sense in smaller areas upstate.

“These … counties could have been operating, could have been creating sales tax,” Reeners said.

Williams though said that while the declaration is in place for the next 30 days, he has the ability to cancel it.

For now though, Reeners and other developers will have to wait and see what happens with the virus.

“Anyone who was planning anywhere in Cortland County has been giving that second thought for the short term,” said Gary VanGorder, the executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp.