Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

November 29, 2013

Council vote on South Junior, Walnut Avenue projects draws puzzlement, anger

(Continued)

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Choolokian said he has also heard concerns from landlords who feel the housing projects will create unfair competition for tenants.

“We’re taking away the population for these people, home, local guys that own these properties,” he said. “So now your renters are definitely not much to pick from.”

Seth Piccirillo, the city’s Community Development director, expressed frustration after the council meeting, saying that he and representatives from each of the agencies made themselves available to discuss the tax agreements in recent months, but received no inquiries from council members.

“We found people that have experience converting these buildings and we basically just told them to leave council chambers,” Piccirillo said. “We have explained the details to (council). We have made sure to keep the community updated. But they have made a decision that the way these buildings stand today is acceptable to them.”

Piccirillo then noted that only Choolokian had voted the tax agreements down and said the councilman might have voted differently if he lived near one of the vacant school buildings that would be restored as part of these projects.

The projects would help to bring stability to the sometimes dangerous neighborhoods where each is planned, he added.

“I urge (Choolokian) to spend some time on Seventh Street or Portage at about 11:30 at night and check if he thinks that’s acceptable,” Piccirillo said.

In addition, the council, including Choolokian, voted to sell city land to Housing Visions and approved a Community Development budget that included a $300,000 grant for the not-for-profit’s Walnut Avenue project.

Choolokian’s no vote was particularly puzzling in that the chairman asked no questions about the tax agreements in the months leading up to the vote, despite Piccirillo reaching out to council members offering to answer any questions they might have both at council meetings and in emails, he said.

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