An Informational Meeting was held by the Town Board of the Town of Clarence on Monday, June 4, 2007 at the Clarence Town Hall, One Town Place, Clarence, New York.
Supervisor Kathleen Hallock called the meeting to order at 7:00 P.M. Councilman Bylewski led in the pledge to the flag.
Members of the Town Board present were Councilmembers Patrick Casilio, Joseph Weiss, Scott Bylewski and Supervisor Hallock. Absent was Councilman Bernard Kolber.
Supervisor Hallock said the purpose of this meeting is to consider the request by Heritage Christian Services to locate a new group home on approximately 2.3 acres on the east side of Shimerville Road, south of Connemara Lane in the Town of Clarence.
Present from Heritage Christian Services were Ron Little, Vice President of Finance & Agency Advancement; Drew Bielemeier, Vice President of Operations; and Chuck Barber, Director of Operations for WNY.
Drew Bielemeier said Heritage Christian Services was incorporated in 1980 by people who were looking for a home for their children that had Christian values in the Rochester area. They pride themselves on quality services and Christian values even though they are non-denominational in nature. They have 51 homes with 11 in the Western New York area. The goal is to empower and enrich people's lives.
Chuck Barber said the proposed residence will look like a large home from the outside, but will be divided into four units on the inside. The residents will be 8 young men in their 20's to 30's. Each unit will house two residents with two bedrooms a kitchen and common area. Many of the gentlemen already live with their families in Clarence. The residents attend a job or program during the day. There is 24-hour staffing to assist them with their daily needs.
Councilman Casilio asked for copies of their annual report for the Board. The main office is in Rochester. They have a board of directors including parents of residents.
Councilman Bylewski said one of the concerns was the four units with regard to our zoning laws. We understand the State Law supersedes our Town laws. The Town review of a group home is very limited. The only objection would be if an area is saturated with group homes, the Board would have to suggest a different location.
Councilman Casilio said the fire company in an area of the Town that has a group home seems to get calls there on a monthly basis. He asked if they would be willing to pay a fee to the fire company where they have a residence. Mr. Little said as long as every resident has it as a separate line item on their tax bill. It would be acceptable to them to pay the special district tax the same as all properties in the Town do.
Speaking to the subject:
Joan Giglia said she lives just south of the proposed home with her backyard facing it. She is not against a group home at all. She has lived there for 70 years and her rural area has changed. Mrs. Giglia asked several questions about the house that is proposed.
Councilman Bylewski said Heritage has one other home in the Town and he has not heard any complaints. The applicants have never said they had a negative experience either.
Supervisor Hallock said she attended the open house at the home on Keller Road and recognized a neighbor who spoke about much of the same concerns when that hearing was held. She asked him how everything was going. He said he is very happy with how well everything turned out. The other neighbors were all there too.
Paul Anderson said he lives next door. He does not have an issue at all with the type of people who will live there. He wishes he could have bought the piece of property himself. He is fortunate enough to come to Clarence to build a new home and he does not want a group home next door. His biggest concern is parking and lighting. It is unfortunate that they chose a site next to a brand new subdivision and his brand new house. He does not know who profits from this, but it comes down to money. His home will lose value.
Dennis Mayer said he lives on Northfield Road and a group home was put on his street about five years ago. People were very concerned at the time. The house has been greatly improved and it has parking for about 7 - 8 cars. It is never really that busy except for a couple times a year. He would say the value of the homes has gone up. He has seen the homes that Heritage Christian Services runs and they are very nice, in fact his son is going to live in the one being proposed. He will be able to continue living in the Town that he has grown up in and gone to school. This is a great community in the way that it accepts people. There is fear of the unknown, but he believes with time people will realize that it is a good thing. This group knows what they are doing and they care about people.
Cindy Colellow lives on Shimerville and she understands how Mr. Anderson feels. She believes they should consider another location because the traffic on Shimerville Road is horrendous. It used to be a beautiful place but now cars are flying around. She asked how many group homes are in Clarence and what are the criteria for the number and location.
Mr. Little said the Town is governed by New York State Mental Hygiene Law which specifies their options as do nothing; enter into discussion with the residents as they are doing now; if they say no to this location, they must suggest an alternative location that meets the same requirements; or there are too many of these homes in this community that it would change the character and nature of the community. Mr. Little added that although it is an option, no one has ever won that argument in New York State. In his opinion, Clarence is no where near saturation. It goes to a hearing and the Office of Mental Retardation sits at the hearing and they have never lost. The next option is an Article 78, which they would probably lose also.
Supervisor Hallock asked if the Town Board could have the opportunity to look at their plans. Mr. Little said they have not been completed because the lot is quite large and there are many variables to how it could be developed.
Supervisor Hallock said the purpose of the meeting was to hear any concerns of the neighbors to give Heritage Christian Services information so that they can proceed accordingly to address them.
Eileen McCallister said her son lives at the home at 16 Heim Road and she extended an invitation to anyone who would like to come and take a tour of the home.
Councilman Bylewski said it has been mentioned that the concerns of the Town were zoning, sewer and environmental. This is not a comment on the group home in particular, but a comment on the sewer line. There is an appropriate environmental step that they have to take to allow for the group home to tap into it.
Motion by Councilman Bylewski, seconded by Councilman Weiss that pursuant to the Environmental Conservation Law, a Negative Declaration is issued for the proposed Group Home north of 5845 Shimerville Road for the sewer use capacity from the Heise/Brookhaven Trunk Sewer Line. After review by the TEQR Committee it is determined that the proposed sewer extension will not create future growing inducing conditions and that the use of such sewer capacity for a Group Home is, by definition, limited to a single-family residential unit. Any tap that is used is to be taken from the 1,000 taps identified as reserve capacity for the Clarence Hollow Pollution Abatement Project.
Mr. Anderson asked who owned the property. Mr. Little said there is case law where people have tried to disrupt a sales agreement by putting in offers to buy the property. The New York State Attorney General has ruled it as collusion and inappropriate behavior. It resulted in severe fines.
Mr. Anderson asked if the Town gains from this project financially. Supervisor Hallock said the Town actually loses.
There being no further business, Supervisor Hallock adjourned the meeting at 7:55 P.M.
Nancy C. Metzger