Development Review / Planning Board

“Development review” is a general term for the municipal process of evaluating proposed land use developments to ensure that they comply with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Code, and other regulations. These regulations contain guidance pertaining to site design and layout, zoning, engineering, utilities, transportation, storm water, sediment control, lighting, signage, landscaping, etc. Town planning staff works with applicants, along with attorneys, engineers, architects, board members, and surrounding property owners and businesses during the development review process.

The Town of Ithaca’s development review procedures are intended to help assure the health and welfare of citizens and achieve high-quality development that complies with applicable regulations, while addressing the needs of the surrounding community.


Zoning is the basic means of land use regulation. It ensures that the land is used in a manner which best serves the health, safety, and welfare of the entire community. To zone or re-zone is to establish a new zone which determines the land use and regulations for a property or area of land.


How do I apply for a zoning change?

Contact Town Zoning (607) 273-1783 or Town Planning (607) 273-1747 and set up a pre-application meeting. Town staff will direct you to any necessary application forms and will guide you through the re-zoning process.

How difficult is it to change my zoning?

The re-zoning process entails Planning Committee discussions and recommendations, Planning Board recommendations, and Town Board approvals. Before applying for a rezoning, please contact the Town Zoning or Planning to see if your request is consistent with the Town’s Future Land Use Map and Comprehensive Plan. If it is inconsistent, it is likely that the Town will not approve the request unless the Future Land Use Map is amended.

Is approval guaranteed?

Unfortunately, no. Zoning is a public process that invites input from any interested party. Adjacent property owners or tenants may object to the proposed re-zoning. Therefore, land acquisition, based on the hope of rezoning a property in the future, carries some risk.

What is my property zoned?

You can search the Town Zoning Map.

Rezoning Resources

§ 270-179 Zones to which applicable. [Amended 11-9-2020 by L.L. No. 6-2020]

§ 270-181 Procedures for creation of a zone.

special permit

Special Permit approval is required for a land use that needs additional board review and scrutiny, either because the use is atypical for a particular zone, e.g., a golf course proposed in a residential zone, or because the use is proposed in an area that is environmentally sensitive. In some cases, special permit approval can be required in addition to site plan approval. Special permit offers the decision-making board a deeper level of review for a project to ensure that it will not negatively impact surrounding uses.

The Town of Ithaca Code lists the uses in each zone that would require a special permit by the Planning Board. A special permit is granted only if the application meets certain conditions or criteria, listed in “1” through “8” below:

§ 270-200. Considerations for approval. [Amended 4-9-2018 by L.L. No. 2-2018]

The reviewing Board’s determination of an application for special authorization shall include findings consistent with any special criteria set forth in this chapter relating to the specific use or activity for which approval is being sought and shall also include, as appropriate, but shall not be limited to, findings that the following standards have been met:

  1. The project will be suitable for the property on which it is proposed, considering the property’s size, location, and physical site characteristics.
  2. The proposed structure design and site layout are compatible with the surrounding area.
  3. Operations in connection with the proposed use do not create any more noise, fumes, vibration, illumination, or other potential nuisances than the operation of any permitted use in the particular zone.
  4. Community infrastructure and services, such as police, fire and other protective services, roadways, schools, and water and sewer facilities are currently, or will be, of adequate capacity to accommodate the proposed use.
  5. The proposed use, structure design, and site layout comply with all the provisions of the Town Code and with the Town of Ithaca Comprehensive Plan.
  6. The site layout, with proposed vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian access, traffic circulation, and parking and loading facilities, is sufficient for the proposed use and is safely designed for emergency vehicles.
  7. The project includes sufficient landscaping and/or other forms of buffering to protect surrounding land uses. Existing vegetation is preserved to the extent possible.
  8. To the extent deemed relevant by the reviewing Board, the proposed use or structure complies with all the criteria applicable to site plan review set forth in this chapter.

Planning Forms