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Housing complex draws ire at workshop meeting

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    Doubles II owner Sam Aldi addresses the audience at a public workshop meeting regarding the proposed Catskill Gardens project.
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    Leslie LaFleur, far left, talks about the proposed Catskill Gardens to the Catskill Village Planning Board.
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    Catskill Planning Board Chairman William Zwoboda discusses the proposed Catskill Gardens.
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    The proposed Catskill Gardens site on West Main Street near Creekside Restaurant in Catskill.
July 10, 2018 11:35 pm

CATSKILL — Catskill residents made known their opposition to the proposed Catskill Gardens, a $25 million low-income complex for adults with special needs, at a village planning board workshop meeting at the Washington Irving Senior Center on Monday.

The proposed 18-acre site on West Main Street, near the Creekside Restaurant, would be a three-story, 90-unit apartment complex with options for one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Office space for educational programs, community space, a gymnasium and computer room would occupy 3,700 square feet.

The Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties proposed the development and Poughkeepsie-based Mauri Architects PC has been hired to work on it.

Residents were invited to share their thoughts and concerns about the draft scoping document for the project, which applies to the preparation of a draft environmental impact statement. The statement evaluates zoning and land use suitability of the proposed site to assess potential environmental impacts.

A final draft of the environmental impact statement will be completed before the planning board’s July 23 meeting with project representatives and builders. A vote on the final draft will take place then, Planning Board Chairman William Zwoboda said.

“This is just a draft. We have some comments that we would put in, but we don’t know all of the things that are on your mind,” Zwoboda said. “This is just part of a process and we have quite a few steps to go.”

Each speaker had three minutes.

Leslie LaFleur isn’t opposed to the project, but is concerned about drainage and sewage issues because her property, close to the proposed site, frequently floods, she said.

“If you build there, who is going to ensure us that this problem is going to be fixed?” LaFleur said.

LaFleur asked about what would be done to ensure residents’ privacy.

“My house is surrounded by hedges and woods and trees. I want it to stay that way,” she said.

The project is tax-exempt and won’t contribute enough to the economy, causing taxes to rise, Amanda Greene said. She pays nearly $12,000 in property taxes annually.

“Young people like me, who are late 30s, early 40s, we can get squeezed out of here real quick,” Greene said. “I very much enjoy living in the village, but I don’t want the taxes to go up.”

Greene compared building the complex on West Main Street to building the similar Greenport Gardens, which opened June 19, on Warren Street in Hudson, an area meant more for commercial use, she said. The Catskill project should be built outside the village near the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, she added.

“It’s not practical, it’s not economical, it’s not safe, it’s a high traffic area,” she said. “Again, nothing against the movement that you’re supporting folks with mental health issues. I just think it’s the wrong place.”

The project lacks outdoor space and should consist of several small housing facilities scattered throughout the village rather than a single complex, Shebar Windstone said.

“It seemed to be very single-oriented, I didn’t see playgrounds, day care centers, I didn’t see anything that let people have a family life,” Windstone said. “It makes me concerned about the segregated nature of this facility.”

A public education program on mental health issues should be held to quell misconceptions people have, Windstone said.

“It’s very important that supportive living facilities such as this exist because we never know when we’re going to need it,” she said.

The county has over $116 million in taxable properties, but those taxes are going unpaid, Doubles II owner Sam Aldi said.

“That’s a major concern in a little village of 4,200 people,” Aldi said.

Other nonprofits such as Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts and Bridge Street Theatre bring in visitors who eat in the village’s restaurants, but the proposed Catskill Gardens won’t, Aldi said.

“I don’t see anything positive about it,” he said. “How is this going to make Catskill great again?”

The project won’t attract bartenders and cooks Aldi can hire for his business and he’s sometimes had customers with mental health issues who shouldn’t be drinking because of their medications, he said.

“How are we going to police that?” Aldi said. “I’ve had to find out the hard way.”

Aldi wants to make residents more aware of upcoming meetings on the project by putting up fliers with details, he said.

“This is going to be the news of the year in this town,” he said. “I’m going to wake everybody up.”

The public is impatient for a decision on the project but a basis for a decision has to be reached, Zwoboda said after the meeting.

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM