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Big Tree Glen

Big Tree Glen seeks to build sense of 'community'

By Mike Pettinella



Tenants at Big Tree Glen on West Main Street Road are settling in and the Conifer Realty LLC/United Memorial Medical Center joint venture is taking on a "community" feel.

That's the word from Joan Mrzywka, community manager of the apartment complex that currently has occupancy in 54 of its 56 one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Six of the apartments are specially designed for handicap or HVI (hearing vision impaired) persons. 

"Things are going really well thus far, just a few minor glitches," said Mrzywka, an Albion resident and former prerschool teacher who has been on the job for about a year.

Mrzwyka was joined by Town of Batavia Planning Board members, Conifer executives and the local media on a tour of the facilities on Tuesday night.

Big Tree Glen, which opened a couple months ago, features seven eight-plex buildings, with four first-floor apartments and four second-floor apartments. The building that houses Mrzwyka's office also includes a community room, fitness center, computer room (with four workstations) and a 24-hour accessible, security camera-equipped laundry room.

Mrzywka said the familes there are of all age groups. Eligibility is based on family and individual incomes in relation to Genesee County's median income.

Monthly rental rates are as follows:

Three-bedroom -- $812 (50 percent of the median income), $916 (60 percent).
Two-bedroom -- $704 (50 percent), $713 (60 percent).
One-bedroom -- $569 (50 percent), $570 (60 percent).

Rent does not include electricity but does include gas (which is used for heat and hot water), sewer and water, Mrzywka said.

Conifer plans to build 40 more apartments (all one- and two-bedroom units) as part of its Phase II project. It received site plan approval from town planners on Tuesday night and will be petitioning New York State in anticipation of breaking ground next spring.

"The residents here are expecting us to build more; there is such a need for housing in this area," Mrzywka said.

Company officials reported that they are working on two projects in Monroe County -- a supportive living facility in Webster in collaboration with Rochester Regional Health System and an 80-bed House of Mercy homeless shelter in the City of Rochester.

Photos: View from West Main Street Road, Community Room at Big Tree Glen, 3727 W. Main Street Road, Batavia.

Town planners OK Big Tree Glen, Koolatron, soccer park expansions

By Mike Pettinella


Expansion and improvement projects at the Big Tree Glen apartment complex on West Main Street Road, Koolatron on Commerce Drive and Batavia Sports Park on Bank Street Road received "green lights" to move forward Tuesday night (Oct. 18) from the Town of Batavia Planning Board.

At their meeting at Batavia Town Hall, planners gave their blessing to Conifer Realty LLC after reviewing the Rochester company's site plan for Phase II of the income-based complex at 3727 W. Main Street Road. The site plan approval is contingent upon Conifer meeting all engineering criteria and setting up agreements with the Town of Batavia in line with those already in place from Phase I.

According to Paul Marfione, project director for Conifer, Phase II development will consist of 40 apartments (eight one-bedroom and 32 two-bedroom), which would increase the total number of units to 96.

Occupancy eligibility is based on the median income in Genesee County, Marfione said. Of the 40 new units, 10 would be offered to those at 50 percent of the income level, 15 to those at 60 percent and 15 to those at 90 percent.

"The median income in Genesee is increasing," Marfione said, which enables Conifer to offer 15 apartments to those individuals and/or families with annual earnings closer to the county average ($64,500 for a family of four, for example).

Marfione said Conifer is hoping for New York State approvals within a couple months. An early approval from the state could lead to groundbreaking on the $9 milliion Phase II project in the spring of 2017.

Conifer, in partnership with United Memorial Medical Center, completed Phase I this summer.

Before the meeting, Kathy Jasinski, planning board chairperson, and Conifer executives conducted a tour of the facility (photo above). (Watch for more photos and a story in The Batavian on Wednesday).

Koolatron to construct 25,000-square-foot warehouse

Planners approved a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) and site plan for Mega Properties, or Koolatron Corp., to construct a 158-by-158-foot warehouse with loading docks and new driveway at its industrial park north of the NYS Thruway.

They had no issues with the Canadian-based firm's plan that includes area variances concerning the building's distance to the property line and lot coverage since they were both close to the town code requirements.

According to Gordon Pringle, Koolatron manager, said the nearly $1 million project will result in the addition of a few more jobs. Currently, the manufacturing and distribution business employs eight people.

Batavia Sports Park to install second driveway

Parents of the growing number of youth soccer players who compete at Batavia Sports Park on Bank Street Road will be overjoyed to learn that CY Properties (Batavia Turf Farms) plans to put in a second driveway before the start of the 2017 summer season.

"This will be a one-way in, one-way out" setup, said Chuck Hoover, sales manager for Batavia Turf Farms and liaison between the firm and the Batavia Soccer Club. "The traffic flow will be much safer, especially for those coming out of the park."

The new driveway will be situated closer to the intersection of West Saile Drive, near the company's maintenance building. As it stands now, cars are required to come in and exit via a narrow stone driveway across the street from New Hope Ministries.

Town planners approved the SEQR and the site plan, with the latter contingent upon engineering and design approvals by the town. They also are requiring CY Properties to obtain documentation from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) as to the project's impacts on archaeological resources.

Hoover said the town initially partnered with CY Properties in the venture, which currently has 12 soccer fields, by providing funding and other support, but is gradually reducing its involvement.

"That's one of the reasons we're looking to expand (the operation beyond summer soccer)," he said. "We've already hosted lacrosse tournaments and on Nov. 19 we will be hosting a flag football tournament with 20 teams. And we have an opportunity to land a couple of elite soccer tournaments that would have an economic impact of $400,000 to $500,000 over a two-week period."

Hoover said the project also includes adding a few more soccer fields and additional parking. He said the driveways would be blacktopped near the highway.

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

By Mike Pettinella

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.

56-unit affordable apartment complex officially opened today in Batavia

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) and Conifer Realty, LLC, joined by local officials and community leaders, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning for a 56-unit apartment community in Batavia. 

Big Tree Glen, located at 3727 W. Main St. Road, offers seven high-quality, two-story buildings featuring one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment homes for working families earning 60 percent or less of Genesee County’s area median income (“AMI”). Rents range from $569-$916 per month (with a 12-month lease). Apartments range in size from 725 square feet to 1,200 square feet.

James S. Rubin, commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, said, “Big Tree Glen offers families access to one of the highest-performing districts in Western New York, and is in close proximity to jobs, shopping and services. Affordable housing developments like Big Tree Glen provide greater options and opportunities for residents, and make New York a better place to live and work.”

Daniel P. Ireland, BSN, MBA, FACHE, president for UMMC, said, “Rochester Regional Health Memorial Medical Center supports Big Tree Glen affordable housing. Safe, reliable housing is a major component of healthier communities and this initiative aligns with our vision of leading the evolution of health care to enable every member of the communities we serve to enjoy a better, healthier life. We are excited to see this project develop and reach the completion of this phase.”

Tim Fournier, chairman and CEO of Conifer Realty stated, “Conifer could not accomplish what it has in the affordable housing industry in New York State for the past 40 years without the unwavering support of our state and nonprofit partners, like Rochester Regional’s United Memorial Medical Center.” He added, “Big Tree Glen is evidence that the public-private partnerships and collaborative team efforts yield vital, brand new, affordable homes for so many in Batavia.”

Conifer Realty, LLC, was the developer, the total development costs are in excess of $12 million. Permanent financing sources for the apartment community include a $1,220,000 loan from Community Preservation Corporation; $3,200,000 loan from Bank of America; $382,135 loan from New York State Housing Trust Fund; $7,289,751 Federal Tax Credit Equity from Red Stone Equity Partners; and Bank of America provided a $6,300,000 construction loan.

Conifer is a nationally ranked, full-service real estate company specializing in the development, construction, management and ownership of high-quality, affordable housing communities.

Proposed apartment complex in Town of Batavia receives state grants

By Howard B. Owens

The office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today funding of $16.5 million for 240 units of new affordable housing across the state, including more than $2 million for Big Tree Glen, a project being planned for West Main Street Road, Batavia.

From the press release:

This $12.2 million project is being co-developed by Conifer LLC and United Memorial Medical Center to consist of 56 affordable rental units in seven two-story buildings. The project meets the Early Award Housing Opportunity Project goal in that the project will be served by Pembroke School District, one of the highest-performing districts in Western New York. The project is also in close proximity to jobs, shopping and services. The Town of Batavia supports the project, as evidenced by the approval of a Special Use Permit, approval of the preliminary site plans, and the issuance of a negative SEQRA declaration.

HCR funding for this project will be provided through a Housing Trust Fund award of $1,382,135 and through a $775,583 award of Federal Low-Income Housing Credit, which will leverage Bank of America and CPC loans of $2.2 million and $1,050,000 respectively, $120,000 of NYSERDA funds, and a deferred developer fee of $208,612.


Developers make case for 136-unit apartment complex in Town of Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

There's a very simple reason Rochester-based Conifer wants to build a middle-income apartment complex in Batavia now, John F. Caruso told the town's planning board Tuesday night.

"Batavia's hot," said the president of Passero Associates Engineering Architecture.

"It's hot," he said, "because of your smart growth plans, your STAMP Project, yogurt plants, lots of job growth. I'm happy we're the first to get in, but there will be more. Mark my words, this is a very good area."

Caruso made his remarks during a public hearing for Big Tree Glen, a 136-unit complex proposed for West Main Street Road that Conifer wants to build in three phases.

The Genesee County Planning Board disapproved the plan Thursday night, which means in order for the town's planning board to give it the nod, the vote will need to be a majority-plus-one.

Tuesday night, developers gave their presentation to the town's planning board and local residents -- including several in opposition -- shared their thoughts on the project.

The board won't take action on the proposal until its next meeting Sept. 30.

Caruso and Andrew Crossed, a VP with Conifer Realty, gave a very detailed presentation about the proposed complex, which Crossed called a "flagship design" for Conifer. The same basic concept has been built in several other New York communities, as well as in other states.

The project would be built in three phases with the first phase containing 56 units.

There would be one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom apartments, with monthly rents of $592, $717 and $900.

The market for the apartments are households with annual incomes of $25,000 to $45,000.

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.

There would be two employees of Conifer on site full-time -- a residential manager and a residential maintenance supervisor.

"What we build, we own," Crossed said. "What we own, we manage."

All infrastructure -- roads, water and sewer -- would be owned and maintained by Conifer, meaning no expense for the town.

The property would generate about $75,000 local property tax.

While Conifer will apply for a state grant to help finance construction of each phase, it's a competitive process and Conifer goes into the project knowing they may not win. Either way, Conifer is not seeking any local tax abatements though the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

The complex would include a clubhouse, which would contain the manager's office, community kitchen, fitness center and laundry.

Each unit would have its own storage unit.

"You won't see storage on patios like you do in some places," Caruso said.

Caruso said Conifer uses quality construction material and the design offers a variety of features and colors to add variety and avoid a cookie-cutter appearance.

The final plan will include a bus loop for school buses and possibly local mass transit.

There will be a total of 53 percent green space surrounding the apartments.

"We usually don't skimp on landscaping," Caruso said. "Landscaping really shows the project well when the project is constructed."

One local landlord who attended the meeting said afterward he supports the project.

"Batavia needs this," he said. "I get people in my office every day looking for something like this and it just doesn't exist."

The residents who live near the proposed development area were less pleased with the project.

The main objection from the six or so opponents was the increased potential for flooding and a belief that Route 5 already has too much traffic on it.

Larry Regal, who lives on the south side of West Main, next to the Tonawanda Creek, said there is a small drainage area that connects to the creek and when the water rises on the Tonawanda, the north side where the project is located floods.

He wonders where that water will go if the development is built and whether that will make his property more susceptible to flooding.

Other speakers shared that concern.

They also complained that it can be hard now to pull out onto Route 5 safely with the current traffic volume.

Caruso had said during his presentation that traffic studies show the two-lane road has a lot of available capacity for traffic.

The town has recently installed new sewer lines along Route 5 with the idea of attracting development to the area.

The area is zoned commercial and a variance would be required for apartments, but Caruso said apartments with no more than 80 cars per hour at peak times would generate less Route 5 traffic than just about any possible commercial development in the same location.

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