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September 21, 2016 - 8:41am

Town planners, Conifer clear the air over 'lack of transparency' at Big Tree Glen

The Town of Batavia Planning Board is claiming it was victimized by a “lack of transparency” during discussions with Conifer Realty LLC about the income levels for prospective tenants at the recently opened Big Tree Glen apartment complex at 3727 W. Main Street Road.

In a meeting with a team of Conifer officials Tuesday night, planners said they were led to believe that middle-income individuals and families would be able to rent the 56 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments that were constructed as part of a joint venture by Conifer, a Rochester firm, and United Memorial Medical Center.

“This is not a medium-income (arrangement),” Paul Marchese said. “This is truly a low-income facility.”

Marchese said that planners were concerned over the impact upon the town and the Pembroke Central School District.

“There would be an influx of kids not paying into the tax base, and we were concerned about that. This is not what was portrayed. The transparency was not there and that is what bothered me the most.”

Conifer vice presidents Sandy Gorie and Cheryl Stulpin offered apologies for the miscommunication, but Gorie was quick to add that “this is not market-based housing.”

“We run into this challenge in all the communities we go to,” Gorie said. “It’s all public knowledge; we have to go through the state (Homes and Community Renewal).”

In Phase I of the development, 34 of the 56 units are being occupied by those making 50 percent of the county’s average median income ($64,500 for a family of four) and the other 22 are being rented by those at the 60-percent level.

For Phase II, which could see construction next summer pending funding approvals, half of the proposed 40 apartments would be rented to those at 90 percent of the AMI, while eligibility for the other half would be set at the 60-percent and 50-percent levels, said Paul Marfione, project director.

Gorie said the state is allowing Conifer to use the 90-percent criteria due to higher than anticipated income levels in Genesee County.

The planning board also brought up the fact that a sex offender was allowed to rent an apartment.

Gorie said her company screens 11,0000 applicants each year and this was only the second time that this happened.

“Management did make a mistake, the site staff alerted its supervisor, a termination notice was sent and the resident vacated the property,” she said. “Since then we have revisited our policy and will be submitting (screenings) through our compliance department.”

“It’s important that you know that Conifer is in this for the long haul. We’ve been doing this for 40 years.”

Following the meeting, Planning Board Chairperson Kathy Jasinski said she appreciated Conifer sending people with “such expertise to meet with us and answer all our questions.”

“I am comfortable with the project and look forward to Phase II,” she said.

In other action, the Planning Board:

-- Approved a site plan review for Oakfield Hospitality LLC, a company headed by Ash Patel that is getting ready to build a four-story, 64-room Fairfield Inn & Suites at Gateway I Corporate Park off Route 98 near the Thruway interchange.

“This is the final discretionary approval from the town,” said Sean Hopkins, of Williamsville, attorney for the developer, who also owns a Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn in the same vicinity.

Hopkins said engineers have determined that the hotel’s footprint will have to be moved 18-20 feet to the west to account for an 18-foot easement. This opens the way for a subdivision of the property, which would be subject to another review process.

Town Engineer Steve Mountain said concerns over traffic on Route 98 turning left into the industrial park have been alleviated thanks, in part, to an independent traffic analysis.

Patel said he hopes to have the hotel open next fall. He would not say whether he plans to build another hotel next to the Fairfield Inn, but is keeping his options open for “future development.”

-- Approved a state environmental quality review and site plan review for the 21,000-square-foot (140x150) L&M Specialty Fabrication metal fabrication facility at East Saile Drive and Bank Street in the Town of Batavia, contingent upon the settlement of a few engineering issues.

Contractor David Tufts said it will be a steel-frame building, with the main entrance off East Saile Drive. The owners, Lee Shuknecht and Matt Geissler, have purchased 300 acres and plan to situate the facility 480 feet west of the intersection.

Planners urged Shuknecht to plant some trees and consider landscaping.

“It’s a big project for us,” he replied. “We want to keep it looking nice.”

The manufacturing and repair business received a $200,000 loan from the Growing the Agriculture Industry Now fund to purchase equipment.

-- Approved a site plan review from East Saile Properties LLC to build a 2,936-square-foot addition to an existing tractor-trailer repair shop at 4736 E. Saile Drive in the Town of Batavia.

A SEQR was not needed because the owner produced a letter from the state Department of Environmental Conservation stating that the project would not disturb any nearby wetlands.

Brenda Ranney
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“There would be an influx of kids not paying into the tax base, and we were concerned about that. This is not what was portrayed. The transparency was not there and that is what bothered me the most.”

Why was it that the majority of people I know already knew this housing was for low income but not the planning board ?
Curious from where these renters are moving from ? City of Batavia or outside our county which means they are now on our benefits correct ? Will there be increased in bus service to that complex otherwise welcome to the headache of finding decent employment when you don't have transportation in our area.

Howard B. Owens
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John F. Caruso made it very clear at a town meeting in September 2014 that this was a middle-income project driven by Genesee County's economic growth

http://www.thebatavian.com/howard-owens/developers-make-case-136-unit-ap...

Also, "There would be no HUD, Section 8 or other rent-subsidized apartments. Tenants would go through a thorough screening process, including a background check, income verification and reference check and would be required to sign leases that would clearly spell out residential expectations."

Same promises by Conifer made to the county planners

http://www.thebatavian.com/howard-owens/county-planners-reject-proposed-...

And here:

"This is truly workforce housing for the Town of Batavia," said John F. Caruso, representing Conifer.

http://www.thebatavian.com/howard-owens/town-planners-give-initial-nod-a...

UMMC does not appear to have been involved at the planning stage, so this seems to be entirely Conifer's "miscommunication."

Mike Pettinella
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It was indicated that Conifer is working with the local transportation company to put the development on the public bus route.

Brenda Ranney
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Howard, was there any mention of where they felt the occupants would come from as in mainly Genessee County or neighboring counties ?
Any studies cited ?

Brenda Ranney
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It was indicated that Conifer is working with the local transportation company to put the development on the public bus route.

If you've ever ridden our B-line then you know that it is not normally scheduled to coincide with most employer schedules.

Mike Pettinella
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Conifer officials said that 22 percent of the 116 residents at the 56 apartments were from Genesee County.

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