For sale and for rent signs are not hard to find in western New York. Given the state of the housing market a discussion regarding the 62-unit "workforce housing" development in the town of Dunkirk is becoming a highly debated topic.
Residents from the town and surrounding areas crowded into the town hall Thursday, and latecomers were left to stand as representatives of the developer explained the site plan for the proposed development on Chadwick Drive and Route 60.
Larry Regan of Regan Development Corp attended with his attorney John Gullo, engineer Rex Tolman of Tolman Engineering in Jamestown and architect A. J. Coppola of Coppola Associates.
OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
Larry Regan of Regan Development Corp. spoke before a crowded town hall in Dunkirk Thursday.
Tolman started the meeting off by explaining the preliminary site-plans for water and sewer connections, drainage and foliage
Coppola then explained the sustainability and energy efficiency of the buildings.
Then, Regan himself took the floor to answer some of the board's questions. He began by apologizing that the new process of funding through the Regional Development Council turns the normal process around with funding offered before approvals by the municipality and making the project public before an application is submitted.
He explained the target tenants are not people on public assistance but who are working and are not yet ready to buy a home, or seniors who are looking to downsize from a home. He said there are a certain number of apartments set aside for disabled individuals as well.
He said a payment-in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) agreement is not necessary but that he has offered the assessors office more in a Pilot agreement than would be required to pay under the 581-a income-based taxing regulation the project falls under.
He explained he chose the site for the demand and the proximity to Jamestown Community College for the training partnership which is still in its preliminary stages and has yet to be approved by JCC.
The board took turns questioning the group before the public was given its turn to speak. Board members asked about the number of children, the recreational spaces, police coverage, and bus access.
Another bone of contention with several board members was the impact on the already depressed housing market in the area.
"Last night I attended a meeting in Mayville for County Planning and Economic Development and they are proposing a state land bank. And the reason for this land bank is because there is excess housing in Chautauqua County. Part of the realization is with excess housing, demand is low, supply is high and landlords cannot take care of their properties and with an influx of 62 units here, most of these residents will be coming from within the area I don't think there's a big push for new workers or new employers and you will have 62 empty units with no revenue for these landlords. Those properties are likely to diminish in quality even further and that's a big concern not for the landlords only but for the residents around them," planning board member Jon Ortendahl said.
The public was then given the go ahead to ask questions and make comments.
Speakers came out on either side of the project.
One resident of the town who was in favor of the project said the competition with the new apartments will have the effect of raising the quality of the rental housing stock in the area.
Another resident came out in favor of the project, but said the town needs to consider a broader picture including the lack of sidewalks and lighting between the proposed site and the businesses to the south.
"I have some concerns that have not been addressed but before I get to that, I like the concept, I like affordable rentals ... The location is good i think, next to JCC, it's near the commercial strip up on Vineyard (Drive) and Bennett Road. There's lots of stores up there, groceries, pharmacies, fast food, there's jobs up there, but what is between this location and that location is an impassible dangerous strip," he said.
Another resident against the development had similar comments about the overall effect of adding approximately 240 people to the town's overall 1,300, including the effects on police and fire protection.
Another resident said he was uncomfortable with the increase in traffic and still another said jobs are what is lacking, not housing, especially with SUNY Fredonia set to build townhouses and yet another said the money from the development will leave the area with the developer.
Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Tranum stood up to say workers do not have skills to match job vacancies, like engineering skills and supervisory experience.
He was quickly rebutted that these people in the training programs will not become engineers.
The board ended the meeting with some questions still unanswered with the hopes that a second meeting on March 15 at 7 p.m. would clear things up further.