by Terry Duffy
As discussions continue on the future of the Cold Storage property, the Youngstown Village Board of Trustees held a special meeting last Saturday, the second in days, to gauge the feelings of residents to the latest proposal.
Developers, David Pawlik of Creative Site Structures in Buffalo and David Burke Homes in Hamburg, recently submitted plans for a 30-unit, $3.4 million, two-story complex intended as market rate rental apartments. It would be located on the Cold Storage property at the south end of Third Street between Campbell and Elliott streets. Developers would cover demolition costs, estimated to be in the $150,000-$200,000 range, and all construction costs. They are seeking a payment in lieu of taxes agreement from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, calling for 15 years of tax relief that could be acted upon next month.
Saturday's session was intended to gauge residents' views on the latest proposal en route to village endorsement of the developers' PILOT request to IDA, which went on to be approved with conditions.
However, reactions by the nearly dozen or so longtime neighboring residents attending the session to the proposal were not favorable in the least.
In fact, most came out dead set against the plan. Concerns ranged from increased traffic on village streets and the negative impact on village infrastructure, to density issues, transient neighbors, and fear of low-income housing and the impacts on property values and quality of life.
Elliott Street resident Bruce Oliphant spoke for many when he told Mayor Raleigh Reynolds his family moved to the village to escape the hustle and bustle of closer Buffalo suburbs, such as Grand Island. "I prefer this to stay the way it is," said Oliphant. I "know who my neighbors are." Of the potential neighbors, he added, "they're not permanent."
Campbell Street resident Judy Hanna said she feared the project with its higher density of residents would compromise the neighborhood. "This is a bedroom community," said Hanna, adding she was sorry to see this happening.
Many expressed preferences for single-family housing instead on the property and questioned trustees why that wasn't being considered. Trustee Tim Adamson and Reynolds both responded that while they'd likewise like to see single-family housing, there are problems. Namely the village already has a glut of vacant properties intended for new single-family homes. "We've had some on Carrollwood that have been like that for 20 years," said Adamson, adding the growth market in the village is "marginal at best."
Of the developers' request, he added, "We're trying to do things - what's best for all sides." Regarding the PILOT, Adamson said the developers would not likely proceed with it if their request was not approved by IDA.
Former Youngstown Mayor Norm Swann joined with Reynolds and the trustees in arguing that residents should at least consider supporting the Burke project in concept. "The developer has not provided us any plans yet," said Swann. He asked, "why are residents kicking him out of town now?"
"Maybe we can make it work," Swann continued. "We need to look at the whole picture here."
Trustee Beverly VanDuesen, also pointing to the lack of any other interest by developers to the Cold Storage property, called it a "first step."
Trustee Steve Suitor reiterated the purpose of that session was for the village to give its blessing to the developer's IDA PILOT request. It's to "give him a chance," said Suitor, adding the developer would still need to present plans to the village planning and zoning boards. "The IDA would only be providing tax relief," he said.
Trying to allay residents' concerns, VanDuesen added, "At least we'll have the opportunity to talk with him (following IDA PILOT approval). This is not a done deal."
As discussion moved toward a resolution, VanDuesen suggested the trustees not support the developer's 30-unit apartment proposal, but merely their request for the IDA PILOT. The measure was seconded by Trustee Tim Lockhart. It went on to be approved unanimously.
The Niagara County IDA was scheduled to act on the developer's PILOT at its meeting this week, but was unable to due to problems that arose concerning an incorrect address on a legal notice. The IDA is now expected to act on the PILOT request at its meeting next month.