Cazenovia sets forums on proposed recovery housing

US&J FILE PHOTO

The Switzer building on Davison Road. Cazenovia Recovery is pitching a plan to convert the building, which once housed the Niagara County Department of Social Services, to a residential facility for women recovering from drug and alcohol abuse disorders.

A proposal for the city to annex portions of the former county infirmary at 360 Davison Road will go before the Lockport Town Board tonight, and Supervisor Mark Crocker expects the board will vote no.

Crocker said representatives from the LHC Holdings have not adequately explained why they are requesting the annexation. LHC Holdings, a subsidiary of Mulvey Construction Co., bought the property, which includes 17.5 acres and seven structures, from Niagara County last August for $100,000. 

"We don’t feel that the Mulvey brothers have provided an adequate reason for why we should annex the property into the city," Crocker said.

The boundary between the city and town runs through that property, requiring potential developers to seek approval from both municipalities to repurpose the long-vacant buildings.

An attorney representing LHC Holdings did not return a call seeking comment as of Tuesday evening.

The municipalities initiated the annexation process May 15, when the Common Council held a public hearing on the proposal. Both municipalities are required to vote on the change within 90 days of that hearing.

"The annexation is just really to streamline the development process," said Gregory Mulvey, a member of LHC Holdings, who was the only speaker in the hearing. "It's been a bone of contention with other developers who have tried to purchase the property. It's just going to make things a lot easier to deal with one municipality, one zoning board, one planning department."

Crocker, who said the town was "receptive" to annexation in February, said Tuesday he felt Mulvey's reasoning was too "vague."

"They need to spell out the exact reason for why it would be in the town’s best interest. ... You can’t just say it’s for simplicity’s sake," Crocker said. "That’s not a good enough answer.”

Crocker added the board may consider annexation later on, should LHC return to them with a "more detailed" plan.

Cazenovia Recovery Systems has developed a plan to convert the Switzer building, the largest on the property, into a residential facility for up to 44 women recovering for substance abuse disorders, and up to 20 of their children.

Cazenovia also plans to build 65 low-income apartments in five existing buildings and five new builds — primarily one- and two-bedroom units, with some three-bedroom units. Those apartments would be split evenly between low-income residents and patients who completed stays at Cazenovia residential treatment facilities.

These treatment programs would be funded through the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, while its low-income apartments would get funding through tax credits from the state office of Housing and Community Renewal.

If approved, Cazenovia would purchase the property from LHC Holdings. 

Last month, at a community forum hosted by Cazenovia, dozens of neighborhood residents criticized the proposal over safety concerns, facility residents and security, and the potential impact on their own property values.

Several speakers said they worried the facility would invite property crime and degrade quality of life in their quiet residential neighborhood.

“The problem we are having is not what you do; it’s where you want to do it,” said Kristen Barnard, of Bonner Drive.

Crocker said those plans differ from LHC's original proposal — to turn the property into high-end apartments for seniors — and that LHC never formally presented that proposal. Only Cazenovia has detailed its "preliminary" plans for a residential treatment facility and low-income apartments.

“The concerns the neighbors raised is certainly an issue," Crocker said. "In lieu of a formal proposal, how can the Town Board make an intelligent decision on anything?”

Fifth Ward Alderman Rick Abbott said the city should still pursue annexation, even though he does not support Cazenovia's plans. Abbott has said the residential treatment facility is inconsistent with the neighborhood, and most nearby residents oppose the plan.

“I felt it was in the better interest in the city to have it annexed into the city," Abbott said.

The Town Board meets at 7:30 p.m. today at 6560 Dysinger Road.