Senior housing project controversial for village

NORTHVILLE — The Northville Planning Board discussed the preliminary site plan review for a $1.3 million 8-unit senior housing project proposed by the Fulton County Community Heritage Corp. Thursday night.

The proposed project has been controversial and subject to an unusual zoning situation.

The Fulton County Community Heritage Corp. first presented the project, dubbed the Sacandaga Senior Apartments, to the Planning Board on June 22. On the day prior to the presentation, fliers were distributed in the village alleging that the project will result in criminals moving into the village, resulting in a packed meeting full of angry village property owners.

After that meeting, it was discovered that a 2010 change to the village’s zoning law that allowed senior housing to be built, was never properly filed with New York state.

“Somebody dropped the ball,” Planning Board Chairman Darryl Roosa said.

On Tuesday, the village trustees, in a split vote, approved a resolution to adopt the seven-year zoning change and submit it to the state, a step which allowed the Fulton County Community Heritage Corp. to present its preliminary site plan to the Planning Board Thursday night.

Roosa began the meeting by telling a crowd of approximately 20 people that no public comment would be allowed during the meeting. Roosa said public comments are never allowed during this stage of a site review process. He said he made the mistake of allowing some comments during the June 22 meeting, and he was criticized for doing so.

“It got chaotic,” Roosa said of the earlier meeting.

Roosa said the Planning Board asked Fulton County Community Heritage Corp. to make some changes to the proposed project, which would be on .61 acres of land, approximately 27,000 square feet, near South First Street. Each of the apartments would be about 730 square feet in size. Roosa said the initial conceptual drawings presented to the Planning Board June 22 “looked like a Motel 6.”

“If you look at that area, it’s all single-family homes that have been well-maintained,” Roosa said. “If you look at the way that these [senior housing projects are] built, they’ve usually in areas other than residential, and that’s what people are objecting to, they’re objecting to the look.”

Bob Scott, a Staten Island resident who owns a vacation property across the street from the proposed project, said he objects to the potential look of the housing, some of the potential residents of the project, what the project might do to his property value and to the fact that he wasn’t allowed to voice his concerns Thursday.

“It doesn’t fit into the character of the neighborhood at all. This is an 8-unit structure; it’s state-funded, so the village has no control of the residents,” Scott said. “If this was only for the village residents I wouldn’t mind it. I live here seasonally. I had intended to retire here, but this has got me on the fence.”

Fulton County Community Heritage Corp. Director David Henderson said his organization, which has been in operation since 1988 and owns and manages the elderly-only 65-unit single-bedroom Petoff Garden Apartments in Mayfield, has applied for a $1.3 million loan, administered through the NYS HOME Local Program Small Rental Development Initiative to fund the Sacandaga Senior Apartments project. Henderson said his company will only build the project if it gets the government funding, which is a forgivable loan, provided the property is maintained for affordable senior housing.

“We can charge low rents to low and moderate income elderly because we don’t have that obligation to pay the loan unless we default, which would be failing to comply with regulatory agreements,” he said.

The rules of the NYS HOME Local Program Small Rental Development Initiative require any prospective tenants of the senior housing to be over the age of 62, with income limits of $35,000 annually for a single person and $40,000 annually for a couple. The estimated rents plus utilities for the units would be about $594 per month.

Henderson said anyone who meets the income qualifications would be eligible to be put on a list of qualified applicants and the project is not allowed to discriminate against non-village residents.

Planning Board Member Jim Conkling recused himself from the discussions about the senior housing proposal Thursday night and left the meeting. Conkling is the chairman of the Sacandaga Task Force for Senior Living, which owns the property the apartments would be built on. He said his organization has been trying to create affordable senior housing in Northville for me than a decade, but was never able to get a project together.

“We could afford to get the property, and make us a player, but there was always a wall that you couldn’t break [in the form of predevelopment costs]. We couldn’t raise the $35,000 to $40,000 we would have needed,” he said.

Conkling and Henderson explained that the NYS HOME Local Program Small Rental Development Initiative will reimburse the Fulton County Community Heritage Corp.’s predevelopment costs, if the project is approved for a loan, if not his company will lose the $15,000 or so it’s spent so far planning the project.

Conkling said market studies have show there is a need for about 24 affordable senior housing units in Northville and around the Great Sacandaga Lake. He said creating the units is important for two reasons: it will allow moderate to low income seniors to stay in the local area; and it should open up housing stock for young adults with families, helping to repopulate the Adirondack Park.

Conkling said one feature of the NYS HOME Local Program Small Rental Development Initiative is that it does not require seniors to divest themselves of all of their wealth in order to be eligible for the reduced rents, which are only based on income not wealth.

“They can sell their houses and still keep their assets,” Conkling said.

During the site plan review Thursday night Fulton County Community Heritage Corp. discussed some of the Planning Board’s concerns, including building porches for the units and some other cosmetic changes. The board also asked the company to look into the possibility of heated walk ways to reduce the possibility of residents falling during trips to and from a laundry area.

The Planning Board voted to schedule Aug. 17 as the next site plan review meeting for the project. Roosa said the Planning Board will schedule a public hearing, during which public comment will be allowed, before sending the site plan to the Village Board of Trustees.

By Patricia Older

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