One after another over the course of an hour and forty minute public hearing tonight, residents of East Avenue, Poplar Lane, Orchard Drive and South Street in the Village of Le Roy took the microphone – letting Batavia developer Eric Biscaro know how much they love their “jewel” of a neighborhood.
Biscaro, owner of Armor Building Supply, stood his ground, though, responding that his proposal to build 30 duplex units for tenants age 50 and over on a 20-acre parcel off East Avenue and open up eight single-family home building lots by extending the street would be a good thing for the community – creating more housing opportunities for older people and adding to the tax base.
The setting for the public hearing called by Village Mayor Greg Rogers was Memorial Auditorium at Trigon Park, where about 85 people – most of them from the area where Biscaro hopes to build – showed up either to voice their opinions or to hear what others had to say.
The project has been on the table for several months, with Biscaro proposing his Le Roy version of Batavia’s Clinton Crossings Adult Community to the Genesee County Planning Board in early April.
Since then, it has encountered considerable opposition, primarily from residents near the identified location who fear a substantial increase in traffic along East Avenue – as currently that is the only way to access the proposed development – and are concerned about stormwater runoff from the complex.
Village board members heard more of the same tonight, as well as impassioned pleas from longtime homeowners to put the complex somewhere in the Town of Le Roy as to not disturb their peaceful setting.
Maurice Turner of 24 East Ave., a transplanted Rochesterian who said he and his wife purchased the home about 21 years ago, may have summed up the neighborhood feeling the best when he addressed the crowd about two-thirds of the way through the public hearing.
“When I looked at this place, I said, ‘This is a jewel … this is sweet,’” he said. “One way in, one way out, and that particular day, I didn’t see a lot of traffic. But what I did see … is anybody that can’t see this must be a fool … I’m saying that because of the passion in my heart that I have for the area that I live in.”
Turner said he thinks the Biscaro project – which would need a zoning change from Residential to Planned Unit Development – would be best suited for the town, but if it had to be in the village, he suggested that village officials “think outside of the box” by putting in an access road from Asbury Road, and leave East Avenue and the surrounding streets as is.
Mayor Rogers opened the meeting by outlining the Village Board’s reasoning for considering the project, stating that the dwellings would generate needed tax money and fill the need for housing for seniors.
He said the village was committed to spending up to $1 million on improvements to East Avenue, citing a 1988 resolution that authorizes the village to fund projects that would enhance future growth.
Biscaro followed with a quick overview of the project, using a video of the set-up at Clinton Crossings and photos featuring trees and other buffering around the Le Roy parcel.
He said each lot of the senior development would measure 100- by 150-feet, and could be accessed by a main exit off East Avenue toward the center of the parcel and, in an emergency situation, from South Avenue onto East Avenue.
Twenty-four of the 30 one-floor units would measure 1,200 square feet plus a one-car garage and six of them would measure 1,450 square feet with a two-car garage.
He stressed that the development would not be visible from the south, north and west as long as the trees are there (which he promised to make sure they are retained), and about 40 percent of it could be seen from Asbury Road to the east.
Biscaro also spoke about the success of the Clinton Crossings complex, noting that residents there and those who live along the adjacent Stringham Drive co-exist without any issues.
Although Rogers set ground rules, asking for an orderly process to accommodate those who wished to speak, the public comment session began on an emotionally-charged note when Tom Condidorio, at a high decibel level, said that the proposal to put in a PUD “is not the future of our village.”
“If anybody here thinks it is, stand up and tell me please. Any LeRoyan in this village, (if) you think this belongs here, stand up and tell me!” he shouted.
He then contended that the Fussells, who own the land to be purchased by Biscaro, will be making a lot of money (a notion later challenged by E. Robert Fussell and his daughter, Anna Sorensen, who said they have been paying taxes on that land for many years).
Condidorio, an East Avenue resident, went on for a couple minutes, mentioning that he was “passionate” about the subject, before Rogers stepped in to keep the situation from escalating.
About 16 more people spoke after that (most, but not all against the project) before Rogers wrapped things up. He said the board would not be taking any action tonight, but would resume the public hearing at its Sept. 15 meeting.
“We want to give it proper thought and follow up ... and do our due diligence,” he said, advising that the board will provide more information about traffic patterns in the village and continue to obtain data about water runoff.
Previously, Biscaro said that he intends to ensure that no more water will run off of the property than what takes place now.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC HEARING
Updated: 8 a.m., 8/19
- Rogers, on putting the development in the Town of Le Roy: "All of the building is going on in the town. The farmers don't want to lose that good, valuable farmland. And the biggest consideration ... of people is in the village." To which Condidorio replied, "Then, let's make those homes; let's make it residential (not rental)."
- Biscaro, on the possibility of receiving tax incentives (from the Genesee County Economic Development Center): "I don't know yet. If we get one, it will be the first one in the county ... for residential building. And the reason is the 2018 housing study for Genesee County is begging for housing like this." To which Rogers replied, "We won't support a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) that comes out of ... the taxpayers' pockets."
- Sorensen, on the need for senior housing: "People need housing. These are beautiful places. I heard originally that they were horrible ... so I went out and looked at them. I disagree."
- Rene Robinson, Poplar Lane, on demographics in Le Roy: "(Per 2018 census) over 55 is the smallest growing population, the lowest population of LeRoyans that we have. So, to focus an entire development on over 55 and then state you are going to use taxpayer money because it's earmarked for future growth of residents is really not reasonable." Biscaro's response was that older people would be able to stay in Le Roy because of this type of housing, and by selling their homes, it would open up housing for younger people.
- Barb Anchor Elliott, East Avenue, on safety pertaining to traffic: "The only access to getting into this development is going to be East Avenue ... you can park on the east side of East Avenue, and if you park on the east side, there really isn't room for two cars to get by. So, I can not see how construction vehicles and all of that can come down East Avenue and maintain the safety." Other speakers agreed with her assessment, adding that the traffic is already heavy in the morning when school is in session. She added that if the (Great Lakes) cheese factory doesn't go through on Route 19, north of the village, that would be a good place for the development.
- Biscaro, on traffic flow at Clinton Crossings: "There's nowhere that traffic. Out of our 40 units, five have no vehicle, and only two units that have two vehicles. Even though that place is 55 and over, the average age is 75, 76 years old."
- Jackie Whiting, on Village Board's responsibilities: "Whether I agree or disagree is neither here nor there. Their job is to investigate opportunities for the village, looking into all possibilities. They may say yes, they may say no ... whether I agree or disagree, I thank you guys for your time and effort ..."
- Florence Condidorio, East Avenue, asked why professional environmental studies weren't done beforehand. Rogers replied that the flood plain and stormwater plan are the developer's responsibility, and the Village Board's responsibility is to review those plans (in this case utlizing Clark Patterson Lee engineering firm). Biscaro said he contracted with an engineer "and there will be less water now than is coming off currently."
- Dwight Kanyuk, attorney representing Condidorios, on the need to have State Environmental Quality Review Assessments: "It's up to this board under SEQR whether there may be a significant adverse impact of their project on the environment." He said it doesn't appear that the correct procedures were followed in accordance with Type 1 SEQR regulations.
- Ron Pangrazio, East Avenue, on water problems that prohibited further development of that street: "(After investigation), they told us, 'We're not giving you any state aid to put in those streets -- it's too much money; it's too wet. They turned it down, and we went someplace else." He said water problem needs to be corrected, and the development "is putting the cart before the horse."
- E. Robert Fussell, property owner, in response to Pangrazio: Stating that the homes on East Avenue were developed by his father, he said, "That (water) is not the reason (more homes weren't built). The reason is the village refused, and this was decades ago, a lift station to that my father could make any money at all developing land past Pangrazio's and Condidorio's houses on East Avenue." He said he believes people should be able to live in the village, and the Biscaro proposal presents an opportunity for older people to do that.
Photo at top: Maurice Turner presents his views about the proposed housing development off East Avenue in the Village of Le Roy. Behind him is Eric Biscaro. Photo at bottom: Twenty acre parcel that Biscaro is hoping to develop. Photos by Mike Pettinella.