December 8, 2021

Workshops set on waterfront development

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

The Tioughnioga River winds through Cortland near the Port Watson Street bridge. Two public workshops later this month will seek ideas on a program to help communities better use the river.

Members of the public will be able to learn more, and provide their opinions about, an ongoing program that looks at how to best utilize the Tioughnioga River.

Virtual workshops on the Tioughnioga River Local Waterfront Revitalization Program will be 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Aug. 26 via Zoom, states a release sent Friday by Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect, the public engagement consultant for Thoma Development Consultants. Thoma is the firm responsible for working on the program, said Eve Holberg, a planner and project manager with Joy Kuebler.

The workshops will provide people an opportunity to “introduce the project and gather public input on the project inventory and boundary and on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the waterfront within the project area,” the release said.

“We always want public input because this will impact our community for the positive,” said Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin. That input will help solidify plans for the program.

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A version of the program was produced in 2006, though it was never formally adopted by Cortland or any of the municipalities participating, Rich Cunningham, the president and senior consultant of Thoma Development Consultants, said in May.

Included in its recommendations were:

  • Develop land-use management to preserve existing open space, protect the environment and focus development into already-developed areas.
  • Create buffers between shorelines and agricultural uses to alleviate pollution and erosion.
    Strengthen the connection between city and village downtowns and the river.
  • Create a bike lane along Route 281 in Preble and Homer.
  • Develop restaurants on River Street in Cortland, along the river in downtown Homer and Cortland or Mill streets in Marathon.

Thoma, following the interests of the participating municipalities, has been working on an updated version of the program since 2019 to account for changes such as solar developments, which was not originally outlined in the 2006 program.

Early draft sections that lay out the waterfront revitalization area boundary and the inventory and analysis section that considers areas like economic development and flooding issues have been completed, Holberg said, though she didn’t have more information.

Details on the timeframe of the project were unavailable Friday, though Cunningham said previously that the updated program would likely be completed in 2022 or later.

“Enhancing our local waterfront will improve quality of life for residents and drive economic growth,” Tobin said.