About 150 people packed into Clay Town Hall Monday night to hear two proposals for senior housing, both of which were met with significant opposition from neighboring residents.
Though the two properties are in different locations, the reasons voiced in opposition were the same — traffic, property values and drainage.
The first application was brought by Lakewood Development LLC and Richard L. and Arlene DeSocia, who requested that property at 8198 Soule Road, a little over 3.8 acres, be changed from R-100 Residential District to R-SR Senior Residence District. Surveyor Hal Romans and Sue Kimmel of Lakewood Development spoke on behalf of the applicant. Romans said the parcel, which backs up to Strawberry Farms, would be developed into an apartment building with 35 units and townhouses. Because the parcel is less than the five acres called for in the R-SR zone, the applicant would need a variance to go ahead with the zone change.
Romans said a traffic study completed by his client had determined that the project would have no significant traffic in the area.
Immediately, the project was met with resistance from the neighbors.
“Please vote no,” said Karen Kendall, who lives on Elaine Circle. “Don’t devalue my property. We have invested everything we have and then some.”
Kendall also said she had a bad experience with senior apartments.
“When I was 21 years old, I moved into a ‘senior apartment complex,’ and I was far from the youngest one there,” she said. “But I was the cleanest one there.”
Supervisor Damian Ulatowski encouraged those in the audience to visit Toll Road Park in the village of North Syracuse, another Lakewood property which would be similar to what would be developed on Soule Road if this project were to be approved.
“I think that would take away some of your fears,” Ulatowski said. “You could get a visual of what it is rather than have what’s in your mind.”
A number of other residents also asked why another senior housing project is necessary, given the new Affordable Senior Housing apartment complex being constructed at the corner of Route 31 and Morgan Road as well as the Toll Road complex. Kimmel addressed the question.
“We have had a market analyst who came in and did a preliminary study,” Kimmel said. “We found that there is a need for 90 additional units. Toll Road has 100 people on its waiting list. People are waiting to have safe, decent, affordable places to live without having to leave their support system. This is needed for this income group at these rent levels.”
But the area residents weren’t convinced that this was the proper location for the project. Albert Fabrizzi, who lives on Soule Road, pointed out that traffic on Soule Road is so bad that he can’t get out of his driveway at any time of day. Speeds are so high on that stretch of road that the owner of the property in question, Richard DeSocia, put up a silhouette of a sheriff’s car on his property to get people to slow down.
“If I was Mr. DeSocia, I’d be the first one to sell the property,” Fabrizzi said, “because he wants to get the hell out of there, too.”
About 30 people remained for the second hearing on Michaels Farms, which is seeking a much more involved zone change. The parcels involved, located at 8073 and 8097 Morgan Road, are currently zoned RA-100 Residential Agricultural; the proposal is asking for a change to R-SR Senior Residence District-1, LuC-1 Limited Use District for Gasoline Services and NC-1 Commercial District. Romans was the speaker for the applicant in that case as well.
The application has been previously submitted to the board, but was pulled to address some issues raised by area residents. The new proposal is simplified; the streets aren’t connected, though they can be if the town wishes, and it leaves a good amount of green space.
“We’re asking for 432 units at full buildout,” Romans said.
In addition to three apartment buildings, the applicant wants to include a gas station and some commercial development. It also proposes the extension of roads within Fairway East and Cross Creek to connect with Waterhouse Road and the construction of signal lights at that intersection.
“Extending Fairway to Morgan Road will probably cause road widening and signalization that will probably cost upward of $262,000,” Romans said. “The commercial helps to pay for that connection. That connection has shown up on many town of Clay plans that have been around for the last 15 years… Strictly residential development cannot pay for the developments of the magnitude necessary on Morgan Road.”
A traffic study has been conducted, and Romans said County DOT has reviewed it preliminarily.
Unlike the Soule Road property, no one has expressed a specific interest in developing the property at this point. However, Romans said the parcel would be marketed to “upper-level apartment projects.”
“There’s a need in Onondaga County,” he said. “The waiting lists are quite long. There’s not enough diversity within the community. People want to be within the area where they live, where they work, where their kids and grandkids are. That’s why my client is looking to do this project.”
Once again, area neighbors are firmly against the development. This time, they went so far as to get a petition together in opposition. Bob Mearon of Cross Creek drive headed up the effort, handing over a document with at least 133 signatures to the town board.
“We didn’t even try very hard,” Mearon said. “People signed quickly, easily and willingly with no objections.”
In particular, the neighbors were concerned about the extension of Fairway East to Morgan Road.
“We’re very concerned about the extension of Fairway Drive East,” Mearon said. “Things change over the years. There is a signalized entrance to Fairway a little ways north of that intersection which seems to handle the bulk of the traffic and seems to work pretty well. We’re afraid if you create another intersection at Cross Creek where it connects to Bordeaux, it’s going to create a speedway for people.”
Second District County Legislator John Dougherty also spoke in opposition to the project, speaking on his own behalf as a resident of Loveland Drive in Fairway East.
“No one knows better than I do that the public isn’t always right,” Dougherty said. “But you have almost complete unanimous opposition to this project. I hope you take that into account when you make your decision.”
Both public hearing were adjourned; the Soule Road project will be heard at 7:41 p.m. Oct.1, and the Morgan Road project will be heard at 7:35 p.m. Oct. 15.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.