Lopez: Proposed senior project part of recovery


By David Avitabile

The proposed Birches senior housing project is a very important component of flood recovery in the Schoharie Valley, according to Assemblyman Pete Lopez.
Assemblyman Lopez, who initiated the project, said Monday that adding more housing was discussed in Schoharie even before the devastating floods of August 2011.
More housing would help build a stagnant population base, he continued.
The location of the proposal, to be built near the old Great American spot on Main Street, has caused some controversy but Assemblyman Lopez reported that the developers were given "a slew" of possible sites and chose this one.
This location, they felt, was close to village amenities, and had a "village feel," he explained.
The Schoharie village planning board is holding an informational meeting tonight, Wednesday, at 7:15pm in the Presbyterian Church hall on Main Street on the proposed project.
The current proposal calls for a three-building, 72 rental unit complex for low and moderate-income seniors. The developers were awarded $3.9 million in low-interest loans and tax credits from the state for the project.
Rebuilding in a floodplain has brought about some strong emotions, the Assemblyman added.
Some people believe that there should not be further building in the floodplain while others see building as very important, he said.
The Birches project, he added, could be a model on how to build in the floodplain.
"This project has some very critical issues to it."
Adding to the housing base is imperative, he argued.
"Projects like this are going to strengthen us in the long run."
With a flat or declining tax base, "the issue of rebuilding is even more critical."
The Governor and other state offices are backing the proposal to "help us find a way back from the disaster. It's an opportunity."
Local business groups have also thrown their support behind the proposal, he added.
Some residents, including nearby property owner Arlene Vrooman, have expressed concern about the project worsening the flooding conditions for surrounding properties.
Protective features will be used for the housing project and the neighbors, Assemblyman Lopez stressed.
The project, he added, is an important part of flood recovery of the Valley and will be part of the broader "flood resiliency project" for the area.
"If we can't do that successfully, we won't make it. This is only one piece."
The first effort is to address the housing piece.
A public hearing will also be held on the project before the planning board votes on the proposal.
The planning board would have to approve a site plan review which would include the location, setbacks, lighting, landscaping, view shed and other aspects of the proposal. A special use permit is also required.
Mayor John Borst has noted that the project would add tax base and more water customers for the village. Ms. Vrooman argued that it is the wrong place for the complex because of the water and flooding issues.