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St. Joe’s pitches alternative veterans facility location

February 7, 2012
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers officials have come up with another potential site for their proposed 25-bed community residence for veterans suffering from substance addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Under the latest plan, the 10,000-square-foot facility would be built just off of the 3-acre property near Kiwassa Road where St. Joseph's had originally planned to put it.

That proposal, which would have required a zoning change, drew a barrage of complaints from neighbors who said it would damage their property values and the neighborhood's residential character.

St. Joseph's CEO Bob Ross said Sunday that the alternative site would put the building on a paper street next to the 3-acre site. He's also proposed leaving a portion of that parcel undeveloped to create a buffer for the adjacent homeowners.

However, St. Joseph's still would pursue rezoning part of the 3 acres to create road access, parking and a recreation area for the veterans' residence, and "because we'd also like to preserve the option of having some access there in the future," Ross said.

The changes were pitched to neighborhood residents at a meeting Thursday night at St. Joseph's.

"I wanted to put forward an option that we had been working on for a few days," Ross said. "We were looking for an acknowledgment that St. Joe's was taking seriously the concerns raised by the neighbors, which we are, and that we were trying to make a meaningful response, which we are."

Each aspect of the new plan, however, has some complications.

It's still being researched who owns the paper street where the building would be located.

How the proposed vegetative buffer would be made permanent is also in discussion. Ross said St. Joseph's could ask the village to accept a conservation easement or transfer ownership of that section of the property to the abutting homeowners.

The exact width of the buffer is still up in the air. Several residents at the meeting said they'd like to have a wider buffer than St. Joseph's proposed, Ross said.

Road access to the new proposed site is also an issue. Ross said they're trying to avoid using Kiwassa Road, as the neighbors had concerns about traffic. One possibility is to create access off of the one-way exit road that runs down from St. Joseph's main campus to Kiwassa Road, although Ross said he wasn't sure that would work from an "engineering and cost point of view."

Ross said the new plan got mixed reviews. Some people liked the idea of moving the veterans' residence off of the 3-acre site while others said they couldn't make a determination because it was a conceptual presentation, not a final one.

Lionel Arlan, who owns a home on Kiwassa Road that's closest to the 3-acre site, was one of the roughly dozen neighborhood residents who attended the meeting and listened to the latest plan.

"I thought it was a step forward in that they're looking at alternate sites and coming up with alternate solutions," he said. "But there's two things that disturbed us. Number one was they still want to rezone that 3-acre parcel for future expansion. In the future, that could bring the same problems we're facing today. Secondly, the presentation was incomplete. These were conceptual drawings. There were no site plans, and it was very hard to draw any conclusions."

Ross said his team is preparing a more detailed presentation, which they initially thought wouldn't be needed for the rezoning.

"We understand the desire for the greatest amount of specificity," he said, "and we'll do our best to pull that together in the next week or so."

Ross also noted that the $2.6 million, state-funded project is facing time and financial constraints.

"To do it a year later would add costs that we don't have more money for; plus, we don't want to delay providing services to our veterans," he said. "The issues raised by the community members are ones we understand and respect and are taking seriously. We think we've come back with the beginnings of some positive responses, and we hope to be in a dialogue with them over the next few days to bring back a plan for them."



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