Cul-de-sacs limited in future Syracuse community ordinance

Mar 15 2013 - 11:09pm

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SYRACUSE -- Despite the concerns of three area real estate developers, the Syracuse City Council added an amendment limiting cul-de-sacs in residential and nonresidential developments.

The vote could affect future development projects, such as the Still Water Lakes subdivision, which are currently in the planning stages. The vote was 3-2.

Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle said she hopes the "hard-nosed" position three council members recently took in changing the ordinance will not result in unintended consequences for development projects now in the works.

Nagle said she is concerned the ordinance change limiting the length of cul-de-sacs may imply the city has a reputation of being difficult to deal with when it comes to growth opportunities.

Council members Brian Duncan, Craig A. Johnson and Karianne Lisonbee voted in favor of the amendment that limits the length of cul-de-sacs to 500 feet with only a few exceptions granted.

Duncan said the council approved the amendment based on concerns regarding providing fire protection and water pressure to the deeper cul-de-sacs. The difficulty with snow removal in deeper cul-de-sacs was also taken into consideration, Duncan said.

"There are a lot of maintenance and safety issues going on," he said.

The amendment, recommended by the Planning Commission, may significantly affect the ability to approve a development, such as the Still Water Lakes subdivision, according to city staff. In a letter dated Feb. 20, and addressed to Nagle, three separate development groups -- Ninigret Group, Perry Homes and Irben Development -- expressed concern about what was then a proposed change.

"We would like to express our concern about a proposed ordinance that would seriously affect our ability to build in your city," the developers' letter read.

"The proposed ordinance will disallow more than 500-feet maximum cul-de-sacs length except under certain criteria. Unfortunately, the criteria will be virtually impossible to comply with.

"The 500-foot maximum length is less than other cities traditionally allow, and with reasonable exceptions, it makes it that much harder to develop projects that are beneficial to the city and its residents," it reads.

The developers said in their letter that based on their experience cul-de-sacs are useful in design and layout, and desirable to many buyers.

"Cul-de-sacs can also be helpful in limiting the types and amount of traffic in areas," the groups said in the letter.

In essence, the change in city ordinance does make it more costly for developers to build, Nagle said.

Similar decisions made in the past by previous councils is what led to the problematic parking issues customers encounter at the Syracuse Town Center, Nagle said. Because of the landscaping that was required for that particular development, some of the parking for those business has been lost, she said, creating a parking lot that is like a "mouse maze."

One developer said that Syracuse is gaining a reputation that developers may find it difficult to build there, she said.

"We need to be smart in what we allow," Nagle conceded.

But city officials and staff also need to be reasonable in what is allowed, she said, or the city could continue to lose growth opportunities to neighboring cities.

Messages requesting comment from both Johnson and Lisonbee on Friday were not immediately returned.

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