Liberty Green suggests details for PILOT agreement, rec fees

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    WARWICK-The attorney for the Liberty Green senior citizen complex asked the Village Board Monday night to treat the project the same as other developments that provide similar housing. Is Liberty Green, the 250-unit low-income senior housing development proposed by Warwick developer Jonah Mandelbaum, the same as other senior housing developments? Not according to some residents who have followed the project throughout the years of the planning process. They have questioned the need for the senior housing altogether, the large number of units and the impact on surrounding neighborhoods - things that weren't as much at issue when the older developments were being built. Attorney John Capella discussed four issues with the Village Board of Trustees: Payment in lieu of taxes agreement (PILOT), storm water management issues, traffic impacts and recreation fees. This type of housing is considered tax-exempt because New York State encourages it, according to Capella. The land will continue to be taxed but the buildings, if built, will not. Capella requested a PILOT of $200 per unit, the same as the agreement renegotiated with the owner of Creekside, another village senior housing development. Two hundred fifty units at $200 each would bring in $50,000 in taxes to the village. The town will negotiate its own PILOT agreement with the developer. This amount would be adjusted every five years and the PILOT agreement is for 25 years. Capella also addressed recreation, or parkland, fees. Every new building project in the town and the village pays this fee to go toward recreation programs within the town or village. Currently, each single-family home built in the village pays $2,500 in parkland fees. Capella said that Mandelbaum would be willing to pay $500 per unit but that the $2,500 "would put a great financial hardship" on the project. Other towns where Mandelbaum has built similar developments have waived this fee because little recreation is required because of its being built, he said. The village's attorney, Michael Meth, said case law on parkland fees shows they have nothing to do with the impact on the community. He also told the board they should not take into account what other municipalities do or what other developments paid. "I understand the argument that these fees affect the affordability of these units," said Meth. "By the same token, we must look at the impact on village resources. How much of a burden or impact will this have on the village? Understand, they are not paying the same tax rate." Capella said Mandelbaum would agree to pay up to $200,000 for storm water management, a big issue for surrounding homeowners. Capella said there is an existing water issue downstream and Mandelbaum would pay to have it fixed. "New York does not allow municipalities to require us to correct off-site problems," said Capella. "The improvement exceeds by 50 times the cost of what it would cost to correct onsite. This is a substantial additional cost but Mr. Mandelbaum agreed to do it." If the Planning Board approves the project, these fixes will take place. Finally, Capella discussed traffic. He said the Environmental Impact Study states that the first two buildings - containing 167 units - would not adversely affect traffic at nearby intersections. When fully built, Capella added, the project would add three percent to the traffic at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Grand Street. He also said the developer would kick in 10 percent of what a traffic light would cost at that intersection when the time comes. "Only three percent of the traffic and we will contribute 10 percent of the cost," said Capella. Since the intersection is on a state highway, the state actually pays for traffic lights when they are deemed necessary. Capella said having a fund for a traffic light might move Warwick higher on the state's priority list. Residents listened to Capella but disagreed on several issues. This senior development will be the village's fourth. Already there is Creekside, Burt Farms, and Devon Woods, another Mandelbaum senior development. Lisa Cavanagh is a village resident who lives near Devon Woods and the Liberty Green site on Grand Street. She said the village has done more than its share for senior housing. "The burden is being put on this board and the village to do this," said Cavanagh. "What about Florida, Greenwood Lake or the Town of Warwick? These are beautiful places that can have senior housing. Fifty years from now who is going to live in such a small, one-bedroom apartment? I don't see a good thing coming out of this." Anne Prial, a resident of Pond Hill, which is adjacent to the Liberty Green site, and who has watched the progress on this development closely, has asked the Village Board to reconsider the rezoning of the property, which allowed senior housing in the first place. The village annexed land from the town and then rezoned it five years ago. She said she does not believe there is a need for more low-income senior housing in Warwick. She used statistics from the 1996 Senior Citizens Housing Report, the latest statistics available, to show there is actually a negative need. She objects to the size of this development - 250 new units in three, two-story buildings. Prial also believes the village will be in trouble down the road, when there are not enough seniors to fill the buildings. Mayor Michael Newhard has said there are waiting lists for the developments in the village. He said seniors add much to the community. "We are an old community," said Newhard. "We are one of the great old towns like Cornwall and Goshen. I do believe we've done our job on affordable and senior housing." The board made no decision on the issues discussed.