By NICOLE GUGINO
OBSERVER Assistant News Editor
After months of no communication from the developer of the Dunkirk Meadows Housing Project, the town of Dunkirk recently received news of the project's withdrawal.
The most recent proposal would have two buildings of housing on each of two separate sites along with commercial development on both facing Route 60. The original site on Chadwick Drive would have remained with the property at the southwest corner of Williams Street and Route 60 utilized to hold two housing buildings along with commercial development.
Regan Development received $3,543,491 for the project from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council through the New York State Homes and Community Renewal.
It received $3,143,491 in funding from the Low-Income Housing Credit Program and $240,000 from the Low-Income Housing Trust Fund.
The attorney for Regan Development Corporation, Steve Ricca, sent a letter to the town's code enforcement officer explaining the reasoning for retracting its site plan application.
According to Clerk Jean Crane the letter said, "Regan initiated the process of a site plan application for the proposed Dunkirk Meadows mixed-use development with the understanding that quality, residential and commercial developments were welcome in the town. During the site plan process Mr. Regan made extraordinary efforts to address the concerns of the planning board which included a diligent search for suitable alternatives and/or additional property along with significant additional technical and engineering analyses."
According to Crane, the letter references the support of the multi-use plan by the New York State Department of Homes and Community Renewal, the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce.
It also listed the obstacle which led to the decision to withdraw from the project.
"Mr. Regan's efforts to move forward and try to secure approval for the mixed-use plan would be unsuccessful due to many obstacles placed before them and the conflict with language of the Town of Dunkirk Zoning Law, the jurisdiction of the Planning Board and prevailing fair housing standards. Therefore Mr. Regan was forced to withdraw the proposed site plan application for the mixed-use plan," the letter read.
With Regan Development out of the picture, the question remains: what will happen to the money?
Empire State Development Senior Press Officer Jason Conwall explained the Western New York Regional Council will try to keep the tax credits local.
"While there are no guarantees, we try very hard to find a way to keep the funding in the region. This is dependent on whether there is a viable project that would be eligible for these funds and is within the region to reallocate the funding to. Efforts are made to keep funding as close to where it was intended to go," he said.
Conwall explained the tax credits Regan Development received in the first round of regional council grants in December 2011 were not included in the second round because it was decided it was better to let HCR handle this tax credits program.
"This funding program through HCR was not included in the second round as it was more efficient for some programs to be handled by the agency rather than the councils," he said.
Conwall explained the regional councils operate as advisory boards, seek out projects, analyze and score them and determine which are best fit for strategic plans but the funding comes from state agencies.
"The resources come from existing funding programs through state agencies and funding for the regional councils is not new money in the state budget - the process represents a new approach to how the state invests in projects," he added.
He said typically the regional councils would find a similar project or projects to reallocate the money to.
"HCR still has funds in the regional council process and typically try to find several projects in the counties in the Western New York Regional Council to fund through this process. There is no guarantee, but with this specific project if a new developer wanted to do a similar project there is a chance that, through an application and depending on how strong and viable the project is, it could get funded. However, the current funds do not remain dedicated to this project," he explained.
He said there was a similar example in the past where funding of a project was declined and funds were reallocated to other projects instead.
"Last year, in the North Country region, a company was awarded about $1 million for a project and they also had a location in the Syracuse area. The company chose to invest in the Syracuse location instead and declined the award. The North Country Regional Council worked hard to reallocate the funds to two different projects. This was with a grant from Empire State Development, however, and housing tax credits are a little more complicated than capital grants," he added.
A third round of regional councils was recently approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Conwall said dates have not been released but based on the two previous councils, applications will be accepted until July and awarded in early December. He could not say if the tax credits would be reallocated by the regional councils or HCR itself.
Larry Regan of Regan Development Corporation could not be reached for comment.
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