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Southeast Works drops plan for library

Southeast Works on Monday evening withdrew its request for a special-use permit to use the old Depew Library for day programs for the developmentally disabled.

"I don't think there's anything else we can do," said Judith A. Shanley, executive director of Southeast Works. "We really are not interested in a prolonged fight for bricks and mortar."

The Planning Board last week voted, 3-2, in favor of recommending the project to the Village Board, which has the final approval on a special-use permit.

There had been conversations throughout the day Monday between Shanley and village officials about the permit, Mayor Barbara A. Alberti said.

Shanley approached Village Board members about an hour before the meeting started, asking that the resolution regarding the permit be tabled. Board members told her that the resolution had three possibilities written on it: to grant, deny or table the request. They would not guarantee that they would table it, and one board member said he would make up his mind when he got to the meeting.

Shanley submitted a letter asking the village to withdraw the application.

The Lancaster Town Board accepted a bid from Southeast Works to buy the library for $400,000, providing the village granted the necessary special-use authorization. The deadline to obtain the approval for the sale is Sunday. The agency had planned to spend $350,000 in renovating the building and parking lot.

The sale was opposed by a number of village residents, including many who packed the Village Board public hearing on the permit two weeks ago. Some were concerned about traffic; others wanted the village to receive tax revenue and feared that the tax-exempt Southeast Works would expand.

Southeast Works, which serves 400 adults with developmental disabilities, is headquartered at 181 Lincoln St., a quarter-mile from the library at 321 Columbia Ave. It also operates several group homes in Depew, Lancaster and Cheektowaga. The property is zoned R-1 residential, with special uses allowed for community buildings, social halls, clubs, lodges and fraternal organizations.

Southeast Works maintained that its planned use of two day programs for the developmentally disabled met the criteria as a community building. But Village Attorney Anthony Nosek said a community building means it is owned by the community.

"I think community building has to be considered narrower than serving a public service," he said.

Southeast Works maintains its Lincoln Street location is in a residential zoning district, and if that is allowed the library location should be.

Nosek said the village has an obligation to be consistent in its approach, but he was not sure how the code was enforced when the agency first located on Lincoln Street and said there may have been special circumstances approved by the village at the time.

"I'm sad," Shanley said. "We were a good use for an existing building."

She said the agency would continue looking for a site within a small number of miles of its headquarters. But she wondered where it could locate within the village, if the village does not provide for such a use in its zoning code.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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