November 27, 2021

Student rooming house on Tompkins Street gets OK’d by planning board

Travis Dunn/staff reporter

Cortland Standard photo of the carriage house on Tompkins St .

A student housing property at 23 Tompkins St. gained final approval to operate Tuesday night, after the city Planning Commission voted, 6-1, during a teleconferenced meeting to grant the developers a special use permit to run the property as a 10-person boarding house.

Such a special use is allowed in the city’s R-4 zone, in which the property is located.

Planning Commissioner Jim Reeners, who has previously criticized the project, was the only member to vote no. Reeners had complained that developer Paul Armideo was asking for permission to use the property in a way that Reeners said he already appeared to be using it — to house more than three tenants. Armideo has said tenants have occupied the building since last fall.

Reeners also raised concerns about increased traffic in and out of property onto Tompkins Street across from the YMCA, which he said might cause problems, but James J. Baranello, Armideo’s attorney, said he did not anticipate a negative effect.

Armideo, who still faces a number of code violations in city court for this and other properties, dropped an initial proposal to knock down a backyard carriage house to fit more parking spaces.

Vice Chairman Jeff Gebhardt took issue with the rooming house provision of the city code, saying that it was a 19th century relic that should be removed.

“I think it should have been gone long ago,” Gebhardt said. “I’m disappointed that it’s there.”

Baranello noted the special use was allowed only in the R-3 and R-4 zones.

“This use fits perfectly fine within that neighborhood,” he said.

The planning commission also voted, 6-0, with Reeners abstaining, to approve a preliminary site plan for a project fronted by Reeners, who is a developer himself, at 229 Tompkins St. and 1166 Route 13.

About 90% of that project, Reeners said, is located in Cortlandville, and will require approvals from that town’s planning board.

Reeners plans to build five six-unit residential buildings and one 4,750-square-foot commercial building on 5.68 acres that will operate as a senior housing center, according to county planning documents.