Two years ago a non-profit organization received a $3.5 million federal grant to build senior citizen housing in Western New York, but for two years it has had no luck with its choice of locations.
Now, the three-story, 50-bedroom housing project -- proposed first for Cheektowaga, then Clarence -- has been pinpointed for a six-acre lot on Primrose Lane in the northwest corner of Lancaster.
"There is just a tremendous need for elderly housing and it's right at the crossroads of four different towns -- Amherst, Cheektowaga, Clarence and Lancaster," said Harry N. Konst, president of the Buffalo chapter of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. "It's an excellent site," Konst said.
That's a matter of opinion.
Once again, the project faces uncertainty after questions were raised Wednesday about whether the Lancaster site -- south of Wehrle Drive and east of North Maple Drive in the Larkspur Acres subdivision -- is properly zoned for senior housing.
The Hellenic Educational Progressive Association is a national non-profit philanthropic organization whose projects include providing housing for senior citizens and the poor.
The Lancaster Planning Board, which makes recommendations about projects to the Town Board, tabled site-plan approval for the project Wednesday until attorneys for the town and the association can sort out the zoning questions.
If the land does need to be rezoned, the project could be a tough sell to the Town Board, which makes rezoning decisions.
Residents of the Larkspur Acres subdivision -- a pricey 24-lot subdivision which abuts the proposed site -- are livid about the proposed senior citizen housing.
When Larkspur residents bought land to build homes, they were told the six-acre site would be kept as a nature preserve, residents said.
Now, they say they feel they have been blind-sided with a project that would increase traffic and noise through the subdivision and decrease the value of their homes, all priced at a minimum of $165,000.
"If it was there when we moved in that's one thing," said Larkspur Acres resident Les Lopian, "but now . . ."
Konst said the three-story building would be set back and buffered by berms and trees, but residents aren't consoled by that.
The proposed 26,900-square-foot project includes a community room with a kitchen and storage, a nurse's office, an arts-and-crafts room and an exercise-reading room, according to plans.
The Lancaster site was one of many Western New York locations considered for the senior housing.
When the Hellenic Educational Progressive Association received a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development about two years ago, the project was designated for a French Road site in Cheektowaga, partly because of the town's large senior citizen population.
But a sewer moratorium and a dispute over the land contract resulted in the association losing the site.
The organization then turned to a 15-acre site on the north side of Wehrle Drive in Clarence, but that property turned out to be mostly wetlands.
The fraternal organization -- which has a Buffalo chapter numbering between 160 and 180 members -- has sponsored 46 similar developments around the country and thought the Lancaster site had the multiple-family zoning needed to build the project.
Attorneys will try to sort out the problems and get the project before the Planning Board at its Nov. 6 meeting.