Can the town stop affordable housing?

Can the town stop the 40-unit Dickinson’s Keep affordable housing project in Glasco? Does it want to? As 2012 gets rolling, there are few questions of greater interest to those town residents who voted to change supervisors based on the issue. The new supervisor and deputy supervisor have already written the state to express opposition, reversing the position of former supervisor Greg Helsmoortel. But the relevant state department is not accepting comment at this time, and the town is awaiting advice from its legal counsel on what to do next.

In her campaign, Kelly Myers said she’d do what she could to end town support for the project, which is currently before the Planning Board. The Town Board can’t influence that process, which is overseen by a separate non-political board and based on the site plan and the neighborhood’s zoning, but it could rescind support for Regan Development’s bid to receive state subsidies through the Office of Housing and Community Renewal, which the project needs to be feasible. According to town officials, a representative from state Sen. John Bonacic’s office, which has also supported the project, said it did so because the town did. If the town withdrew support, it would too.

Input from state and local pols is considered but not decisive. At a recent meeting the town held to discuss opposition to the project from residents, Assemblyman Pete Lopez explained that while the department may be influenced by letters from communities, it is not bound by them and may ignore them in favor of other factors, such as the need for this type of housing in the area.

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Councilman Fred Costello also cited the blackout as a reason the town has not communicated opposition to the project. However, he has pointed out that if the project meets the criteria for zoning, the Town Board has no legal authority to prevent it. The Planning Board is reviewing the project, and while it can recommend changes it cannot refuse to approve the project unless it violates the zoning codes or environmental laws.

Workforce housing is defined as housing for working people earning 60 percent of the median income of the area or less.

Regan took over the project from developer Michael Vallarella, whose plans for a market price townhouse project were previously approved. Vallarella asked the Planning Board to change the plans from townhouses to be sold at market rates to “workforce housing,” which would be eligible for state subsidies. Workforce housing is subsidized to keep rents low through tax reductions and state tax credits that can be sold on financial markets to help finance the construction of low-income housing.

While the town initially supported the project, revelations that Regan might not be able to fulfill his promise to limit rentals to working families living in or near Saugerties changed that support to opposition. Bruno, who proposed a resolution in January 2011 offering Regan a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement moved to rescind the PILOT at a special meeting in August. Bruno explained that Regan has admitted that he could not promise that all tenants in the proposed project would be local people, and that residents would not be recipients of the Section 8 rent subsidy program.

 

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