SARANAC LAKE - A group of Kiwassa Road residents are raising objections to the proposed rezoning of a parcel of land near their homes.
St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers is asking the village to rezone part of its property to accommodate a proposed 25-bed community residence for veterans suffering from both post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. The village Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the request Wednesday night. A separate public hearing will be held by the village Board of Trustees, which would have to approve the rezoning, at its meeting Monday night.
St. Joseph's wants to change the zoning of a vacant, forested 2.97-acre parcel where the veterans' dormitory will be located to match that of the center's main 27-acre property, according to documents filed with the village by North Woods Engineering, which is coordinating the project for St. Joseph's. 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.
Kiwassa Road resident Lionel Arlan stands on parcel of snow-covered land where St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers wants to build a 25-bed community residence for veterans suffering from substance addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. Arlan’s home is visible in the background.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
But residents who live next to or near the parcel have been organizing in opposition to the proposal. They've submitted letters to the village and plan to show up in force at the two public hearings.
"The folks on Kiwassa Road are strongly opposed to the rezoning of that 3-acre site because of impacts in a residential area," said Steve Erman, a former state Adirondack Park Agency economic affairs staffer who lives near the property that would be rezoned. "It's against the objectives of the master plan for this corridor. At the same time, we're supportive of the concept of a center for addiction- and PTSD-suffering veterans. It's a good project on a bad site."
More specifically, Erman cited potential impacts on traffic, the character of the residential neighborhood and his and other residents' property values. He said the main campus of St. Joseph's would be a better location for the project.
Lionel and Esther Arlan live next to and downhill from the parcel that would be developed.
"They plan on building a large dormitory within 30 to 40 yards of our house," Lionel Arlan said. "We're very concerned about water runoff; we're concerned about noise pollution, light pollution and a general change of character of the entire residential area, and the devaluation of our houses."
The Arlans also noted there's a blind curve near where the access road to the treatment facility would be located.
"It's just too close, the project is too big, and there's too many activities proposed for that site," said Mark Sengenberger, a former APA deputy director who lives next to the site with his wife Heidi. "Everybody here purchased property knowing we were in a residential zone. The comprehensive plan the village has developed fully supports the fact that this was intended to be a residential area. Nobody wants protracted legal issues here or anything else. All of us are supportive of them doing the dormitory, but up on their property."
The Enterprise got different answers from different residents when asked if their opposition to the rezoning has anything to do with having people suffering from addiction and PTSD living in their neighborhood.
"No," Esther Arlan said.
"There's always that possibility, but it's not a major concern," Lionel Arlan said.
"We have no knowledge whatsoever, nor has there been any public explanation of the degree of impairment or PTSD that these folks would have," Sengenberger said. "As a general concern, sure, but one assumes St. Joe's would have programs and practices in place to deal with the kinds of clients they would be bringing in."
Some of the residents met with St. Joseph's CEO Bob Ross on Monday morning. Sengenberger said it was a candid discussion where the neighbors expressed their concerns and "continued support for St. Joe's mission and the project they want to do."
Ross submitted a Guest Commentary on the project to the Enterprise early this morning. He wrote that he'd continue to meet with people who have concerns about the project and that he remains committed to the project's goals.
"I cannot guarantee that there will be no variances of opinion on what are the best specific ways to accomplish all of St. Joseph's objectives regarding the implementation of the St. Joseph's Veterans Community Residence Program for Addiction and PTSD," Ross wrote, "but I do promise to work as diligently as I know how to achieve an excellent program outcome which is as responsive to community concerns as possible, and enjoys the maximum possible community support to fulfill our opportunity and obligation to our veterans."
Wednesday night's Planning Board public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. in the village's new offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall. Monday night's village board public hearing will be at the same location at 5:30 p.m.