What a difference two years – and two favorable court rulings – make in West Seneca.
While residents gathered 2,000 signatures on petitions in 2010 against subsidized senior apartments on the former Houghton College campus, only a few residents Wednesday night asked questions about the site plan for the project at a Planning Board meeting.
People Inc. plans to build a two-story building with a brick and vinyl-siding facade with 47 apartments for those 62 and older on the Union Road site.
“We’re encouraged,” said Rhonda I. Frederick, chief operating officer of People Inc. “I really didn’t hear any concerns here tonight that I think we can’t address.”
The 5.6-acre parcel is on the southwest corner of the site, engineer Lowell Dewey told the Planning Board. Project developers are seeking site plan approval from the Planning Board, which tabled the proposal until next month so a few remaining issues can be worked out. People Inc. has been awarded funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for the apartments.
The entire parcel is owned by Brian Young, but there is a purchase agreement and he will sell the property to People Inc. once the project gains the necessary approvals, People officials said.
The property is zoned properly for the project, but the Town Board refused to issue a special use permit, which was required. People Inc. challenged that decision in State Supreme Court, and Justice Gerald J. Whalen ruled in favor of People Inc. last year.
The town appealed his ruling, and in January the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court sided with People Inc., saying that Whalen was correct when he ordered the town to issue the permit.
The Appellate Division decision also concluded that Whalen properly held that the “board’s denial of the application for a special-use permit was illegal, arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.”
Residents opposed the project over concerns about increased traffic, decreased property values, increased services it might require and the tax-exempt status of the apartments. Some wanted upscale housing on the 36-acre campus.
But questions Wednesday night concerned things like how storm water would be collected and discharged, the placement of a dumpster and the height of a fence.
“That really is a short fence,” Sandra Kelly of Gervan Drive said of the 4-foot fence planned behind her home. “With the lighting, that’s just not appropriate.”
Dewey agreed, and said a 6-foot fence probably could be erected. Kelly’s property is the closest house to the project, and she said with the fence located on the property line and trees behind it, she probably would be able to see just the top of the two-story building.
One Planning Board member asked about building a sidewalk from the building to Union Road, and Dewey said it might be possible to widen the road and paint a path similar to a bicycle lane.
Alfred Oliver, a commissioner of Fire District No. 3, said the fire district has concerns about water pressure and access to the building. Frederick said People Inc. wants to answer the concerns of firefighters and neighbors, and she said the nonprofit agency would be willing to make a $2,000 contribution to help the fire district purchase radio equipment that would improve communications on the grounds of the former college campus.
People Inc. hopes to start construction in the spring.