Two generations of Keiths Libolt are working to shepherd an affordable senior housing project through multiple levels of bureaucracy. It’s going, but it’s not going quickly. The proposed 51-unit complex is to be sited across from the college and next door to the Ridge apartments in New Paltz. That’s up from the 33 units presented to Planning Board members last June, reflecting the anticipated density bonus that the developers say is essential to making this an economically viable project. An application to the Village Board for a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) is also expected, for the same reason. Housing is in short supply, and housing that allows for the segregation of senior citizens is widely seen as desirable, but there is a cost to addressing the present housing crisis.
Updating Village Planning Board members at their April 5 meeting, the senior Libolt confirmed that one important step had been completed: the concept plan was accepted by Village trustees. That means that the environmental review, which will be conducted at Planning Board meetings, may begin in earnest. Once that review is complete, the variance requested of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) may be considered; the PILOT will also have to be considered before the site plan can be given final approval.
The variance applied for has to do with building height, but it may not be the only variance required. This site only has one way in and out for anyone in a car, and for a development of this size the code requires another means of egress. That’s something that could be varied by ZBA members, if the building inspector doesn’t accept a compromise proposed at the table: widening the front sidewalk to allow for cars to be driven over it in a pinch. Packing in the extra apartments — the “density bonus” to offset the economic impact of capping the rent to “affordable” rates — also cannot be approved by Planning Board members, because it’s at odds with the code as written. It could be given the green light by Village trustees directly, or they could decide to have that question also addressed at a ZBA meeting, following a legal justification provided by board attorney Rick Golden.
While the administrative pieces are addressed, the developers will also have to talk to neighbors about concerns. Jane Schanberg, who claimed to be speaking individually and for an unspecified number of other residents of the Ridge, spoke out about “concerns” those neighbors have since “the back of our apartments are about 12 feet from a retaining wall” at the property line. Schanberg, who in the past has spoken in support of more housing generally and senior housing specifically on behalf of Ulster Activists, indicated that the “concerns” had to do with screening noise and light from the proposed parking lot to those nearby apartments.
Last month, members of Ulster Activists came out in support of a PILOT for this project. The payment in lieu of taxes would be negotiated with members of the Village Board directly, as the county process through an industrial development corporation is seen as dysfunctional at best by elected leaders such as Mayor Tim Rogers.