Syracuse city council votes against creating special zone near school

May 12 2012 - 10:42pm

SYRACUSE -- City leaders have rejected the creation of a special zone to potentially aid a development project near Syracuse High School.

The city council voted 4-1 recently against the creation of a new flex development zone, which could have facilitated the Ninigret development project near SHS. Councilman Doug Peterson was the only city official to oppose the negative vote.

Several city leaders were careful to suggest the vote was against the new form of zoning -- called a combination of three zoning options into one -- and not against Ninigret and the development itself.

"It's way too open. It's an open check in my mind," Councilman Craig Johnson said of the zoning proposal. "I don't think this is a say no to development."

He said city leaders can use existing zones to facilitate Ninigret or other potential developers in the future.

Ninigret proposed developing 193 acres of land between 1000 West and 2000 West into a light manufacturing hub, with the promise of generating as many as 1,200 jobs. The land is currently owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Councilman Brian Duncan was uncomfortable with the new zoning proposal because it was not recommended by the planning commission and because he said it seemed to bypass the city's general plan.

"This does not end the discussion about Ninigret in our city. There are some things about Ninigret that are very inviting. The bigger issue is whether we want Ninigret in our city. I think there are other ways of having that discussion," Duncan said.

Mike Ostermiller, who represented Ninigret, said the new zone would provide solutions to the problems the developer is trying to resolve. He said Ninigret is willing to slowly work through the zoning and development process to see what makes sense for the city.

Ostermiller joined Mayor Jamie Nagle in proposing the issue be tabled, pending more discussion in a work session. The council opted instead to simply vote down the proposal.

A number of residents used the citizen comment portion of the meeting before the vote to express their distaste of the new zoning proposal. Many wore stickers with flex written inside a circle with a slash through it.

"A cesspool by any other name still stinks. It is the same thing. It's been said at times that other cities do this. Syracuse residents are not interested in a status quo city. We want a peculiar city," Con Christensen said of flex zoning.

Planning commission member Gary Pratt also weighed in against the zoning proposal. He said there has been a lot of misinformation about the proposal, some manipulation and intimidation in the process. He did not elaborate.

Businessman Terry Palmer said the city will benefit from being patient in trying to develop the land near the high school, instead of embracing the first offer.

"Patience may be our best quality as Route 193 is developed. It will bring greater opportunities and interest will grow. We are in tough times and the tendency is to jump for the first thing. That opportunity will come. Let's wait on the flex zone. That appears to be a lazy person's out,"

Palmer said.

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