Center seeks permit to relocate

GLOVERSVILLE — The Planning Board will hold a public hearing next month on a special permit application seeking approval for the relocation of the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center’s recovery program to the Center of Hope at 33 Bleecker St.

The Planning Board on Tuesday opened its review of the special permit application submitted by the Gloversville Free Methodist Church seeking approval for a change of occupancy to house the Rob Constantine recovery program in existing office space within the church’s mission and outreach building, the Center of Hope.

The proposed use is allowed under city zoning code in the commercial and downtown urban core form-based overlay zoning districts in which the building is located.

The roughly 2,500 square foot office space was previously occupied by an accounting firm that moved out shortly after the church purchased the former YWCA building on Bleecker Street in 2015, according to architect and church delegate John Mott.

The church currently operates a food pantry out of the building along with other outreach and community service programs. Officials with the Rob Constantine Center approached the church about relocating their recovery program to the available office space after recently providing training at the Center of Hope in the administration of the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan.

“They were able to see the space that we have and that space … is desirable to them principally for the location,” said Mott.

Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center Director Ginger Cato said that although the recovery program supports individuals from both Fulton and Montgomery Counties, Gloversville residents make up the majority of the individuals served at the recovery center’s existing location at 86 Briggs St. in Johnstown.

The Rob Constantine Center’s main office would remain at its Johnstown location, said Cato, with just the recovery center eyed for relocation to the Bleecker Street building.

The recovery center, said Cato, typically offers individual services and appointments with Rob Constantine’s peer engagement specialists and counselors during normal business hours, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The recovery center also offers group meetings, typically in the evening from 6 to 7 p.m., with attendance ranging in size from about four to 20 individuals.

The program is funded through the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports with grants that Cato described as sustainable and unlikely to go away for a long time. But center officials are still actively looking for other grant funding opportunities to safeguard the program’s sustainability. The center is also licensed through the state Department of Health to provide Narcan training.

Mott noted that the proposed relocation of the recovery center would require minimal interior changes at the Center of Hope, mainly “sprucing up” of the existing office space. The only proposed change to the exterior of the building is the installation of a 30-by 40-inch sign that would identify the entrance to the recovery center space.

Mott acknowledged that church officials have already begun hearing rumors that “we’re going to be gathering drug addicts outside of our building” at 33 Bleecker St. if the relocation of the recovery center is approved, but he said the program is aimed at helping individuals who are already in recovery to maintain their sobriety.

“They’re dealing with people who have moved beyond addiction, they’re now into the recovery phase of it. So, the people who are coming in here are not users, but they are people in recovery, they’re actually sober and the Rob Constantine Center works with them to keep them sober,” said Mott.

“What we have done as part of our mission as a church, of course, is to try and partner with ministries and missions that fit along with our purpose,” he added. “In our discussions we think that, really, it’s a good fit with what they do as far as outreach and what we do as ministry.”

Reviewing the application, the only stipulation suggested for the proposed change in occupancy came from Planning Board member Peter Semione who requested that the church install security cameras on the exterior of the building to provide “peace of mind” to neighboring business owners and residents in the mixed-use area.

Rev. Richard Wilkinson of the Gloversville Free Methodist Church signaled support for the requirement, saying the church is already looking into acquiring exterior cameras and recently received several price quotes for the installation of equipment to monitor the area.

With no other questions or concerns related to the proposed reuse of the building, the Planning Board approved a motion classifying the project as a Type II action under State Environmental Quality Review, meaning the projects will not cause any significant environmental impact and will not require further review.

Sean Geraghty, consultant to the Fulton County Planning Department, then noted to the board member’s their option to schedule a public hearing on the project or waive the hearing requirement as allowed under city zoning code for projects within the form-based overlay district.

“You have a choice whether you feel a hearing is going to be required. If you think there is going to be substantial detrimental impacts or it may cause a public controversy, you need to hold a hearing. If not, you can waive the hearing and move on,” said Geraghty.

Board member Jonathan Kluska suggested that a public hearing should be held to allow neighboring business owners a chance to share their thoughts on the proposed relocation of the recovery center before a final decision is made on the application.

“With businesses right next door, we should definitely allow them to have a say at least,” said Kluska. “I can’t imagine anyone is going to have a problem with it, I just think that there should be a chance for people to speak.”

The Planning Board subsequently approved a motion scheduling a public hearing for the next meeting on March 2 at 7 p.m. on the special permit application seeking a change of occupancy permitting the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center to relocate its recovery program to 33 Bleecker St.

City Hall is currently closed to the public until further notice by a mayoral executive order due to the rising number of coronavirus cases locally, with all city meetings currently being conducted via videoconference and livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page.

While the closure remains in effect, anyone wishing to comment during a scheduled public hearing may do so in writing. Comments to the public hearing before the Planning Board may be submitted by mail addressed to the Gloversville Building Inspector’s Office at 5 Frontage Road, Gloversville, NY 12078 or by email to [email protected] Comments must be received no later than 4 p.m. on March 2.

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