Lyons planners ok project revisions

Source: Finger Lakes Times - Jim Mller (02-09-06)

Several changes to the proposed Canal View apartment complex were approved last night by the joint town/village planning board, but some taxpayers still are concerned about the project, which will be built at the site of the old Riverside Apartments along the Erie Canal.

The 36-unit senior housing complex was originally to be accessed from Elm Street, but under the revised plans that were approved last night, the old Montezuma Street entrance to Riverside will be used.

The location of the complex has also been shifted to the western end of the nine-acre site, which the developers said would allow for the development of park land.

Some Montezuma Street residents are worried about increased traffic, but members of the planning board urged them to look at the positives and said the plans were the best they’d seen in years.

But Joan Smith, who lives on Montezuma Street, said she doesn’t like the changes.

“We were made some promises a year ago [when the board approved the original plans], and those promises are going down the tube right now,” she said.

Smith is worried about traffic and the trees that developers want to plant along the access road, which abuts her property, she said.

Amy Casciani of Rural Opportunities, Inc., the non-profit organization building the complex, said the changes had to be made, and Planning Board Chair Mike Santelli said he believed the organization had acted in good faith.

John Caruso of Passero Associates, the engineering firm designing the complex, said the road connecting the complex to Elm Street was going to be funded by a grant that the Village of Lyons had applied for. But the application was rejected.

The state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal also objected to an Elm Street access road, saying it would be too close to the Route 14 bridge across the canal and a safety hazard for elderly drivers, Caruso said.

It also turned out that the state Canal Corp. owns the land that the access road would have been built on, he said.

“We can’t build this road even if we did get funded for it,” Caruso said.

Addressing the traffic issue, Caruso said the Riverside complex had 120 units that generated up to 90 cars per hour on Montezuma Street; the new complex should generate a maximum of eight cars per hour.

“You have to compare them with what was once there,” he said. “We are one of the lowest-impact traffic users that you could approve there.”

Caruso said the changed plans would benefit the village.

He said Rural Development had always planned to donate part of the site to the village for a park. But the original plans split the donated land into two parcels. Under the new plans, the park land is in one parcel with canal access, he said.

The Montezuma Street access road will also connect to the park land, he said - something the Elm Street road would not have done.

But some of the 20 people in attendance had concerns about the whole concept of a senior housing complex.

Eunice Trombino of Montezuma Street said she’d “lived through” the Riverside complex - considered a crime-ridden eyesore by many in the village - and she fears that the new building will turn out the same way.

“I think that’s kind of prejudging what we do,” Casciani replied.

Although the complex will be geared toward low-income seniors, she said, Rural Opportunities has a good track record and has agreed to manage and maintain the complex for 50 years. A complex manager or superintendent will likely be on-site every day, she said.

James Brady, a Lyons town councilman, said he didn’t mind having such a complex for Lyons seniors. But he said residents of the Riverside complex had racked up thousands of dollars in unpaid ambulance bills, and he didn’t want the town to face a situation like that again.

“I get the feeling that people are going to come from all over [to live in the complex], and I’m not comfortable with that,” he said.

Casciani said Rural Opportunities had done a market study that showed demand in Lyons for the complex.

Caruso noted that the Planning Board had already approved the concept, and he suggested focusing on the proposed changes.

Board members agreed and approved the new site plan. Caruso agreed to work with the board on the tree issue and installing lighting along the Montezuma Street access road.

“I don’t see how we can deny them access through their own 50-foot driveway,” Santelli said, referring to the old entry to the Riverside Complex, which Rural Opportunities now owns.

Rural Opportunities must still receive approval from the Zoning Board and work out tax payments with local governments.

Casciani said construction - funded through tax credits and low-interest loans - would likely begin in April.


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