SARANAC LAKE - Faced with a groundswell of opposition from neighboring property owners, St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers has agreed to take a second look at alternative sites for its proposed 25-bed community residence that would serve veterans suffering from substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Nearly 40 residents of Kiwassa and Glenwood roads showed up at a Saranac Lake Planning Board public hearing Wednesday on the proposed rezoning of a parcel of land near their homes to accommodate the project.
St. Joseph's wants to change the zoning of a vacant, forested, 2.97-acre parcel where the two-story, 10,000-square foot veterans' residence would be located to match the zoning of the center's main, 27-acre property. The smaller parcel is currently zoned for single-family residential use only, while the larger parcel is in a zoning district that's specific to the St. Joseph's campus.
From left, St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers CEO Bob Ross, Cindy Garso of North Woods Engineering and Joe Lomonaco of Architecture Plus review the site of a proposed 25-bed community residence off of Kiwassa Road at Wednesday night’s Saranac Lake Planning Board meeting.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
But residents who live near the parcel said the zoning change, and the uses and activities associated with the project, would impact the character of the mostly residential area. They also said the rezoning goes against the tenets of the village's comprehensive plan.
"We believe this is a wonderful project at a terrible, terrible location," said Peter Crary, who lives on Kiwassa Road. "We're opposed to this rezoning because it will forever destroy the residential character of our neighborhood in direct contravention of the current and draft comprehensive master plans. Both the 1988 and the draft master plan consistently place great emphasis on protecting the character of the village's residential neighborhoods in general, and of the Kiwassa Road neighborhood in particular."
Mark Sengenberger, Crary's neighbor on Kiwassa Road, called the request an example of "spot zoning" for a specific project. He listed a number of concerns including visual impacts, change of residential character, noise and light pollution, increased traffic, stormwater impacts and security concerns with the operation of the facility. Many people were concerned about the rezoning, and the project, impacting their property values.
"We bought a house here because it was zoned residential, and the abutting land was zoned residential," said Kiwassa Road resident Lionel Arlan. "Now we're under attack of having that changed after we've invested a lot of money in our homes."
Wayne Feinberg suggested St. Joseph's put the project on an open, flat field in front of the organization's man facility, or near where the facility's garages are located. He said those areas would be "part of the campus, while down there it would be part of a residential neighborhood."
Earlier, however, St. Joseph's CEO Bob Ross and the architect and engineer the organization hired to design the $2.6 million project - Joe Lomonaco of Architecture Plus and Cindy Garso of North Woods Engineering - said they had looked at those options.
They said they didn't want to use the flat area in front of the main St. Joseph's building because that's where the facility's recreational fields are located. Soil borings in that area also found rock was very close to the surface, Garso said.
The garage site had several building constraints, including rock outcrops and problems getting water and sewer to the site, that made it too costly, Lomonaco said.
The 3-acre site was picked because it had a relatively flat area, no rock underlying the surface and because water and sewer could be brought to it up Kiwassa Road.
"There were a number of alternatives that we explored," Ross said. "This was the last of the ones we've explored. And we got there because we ran out of options in terms of cost and we couldn't take the only area for recreation away."
However, at the urging of the audience, Ross said St. Joseph's will take a second look at those sites and other options "because I think it's the right thing to do." He also noted that St. Joseph's doesn't have an "unlimited amount of money from the state," which is funding the project and $8.5 million in upgrades to the main facility at St. Joseph's, and wants the project to be built during the construction season this year.
While the village board would have to approve the zoning change, it had asked for a recommendation from the planning board. After some discussion, planning board members adjourned the public hearing until their meeting next month.
The village board had scheduled a public hearing of its own on the rezoning for this coming Monday, but that's now been canceled.