A group home proposed for Evans is coming under fire from officials and residents, who have more questions than answers.
The Town Board, at a special meeting Tuesday, went on record opposing the group home being planned by Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled on 10 acres along Pontiac Road near Ryther Road.
The controversy was fueled by speculation among residents that the group home would house sex offenders, although that couldn’t be verified, and it was unclear why that was being assumed.
“It’s veiled,” said Supervisor Keith E. Dash, “because there’s confidentiality issues, and they can’t give out this information, so I think residents are uneasy – and rightfully so.
“We’ve had quite a few residents express their unhappiness, for lack of a better word,” Dash said.
More than 60 residents were in attendance at Tuesday’s brief meeting in Town Hall, but no one was there representing Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled.
When contacted by The Buffalo News prior to the meeting, a spokesman for the agency declined to comment on specific questions but released a prepared statement confirming plans for a group home.
“Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled was not aware of a Town of Evans meeting this evening,” said Dean Stresing, community relations coordinator for the agency. “We were not invited to attend or participate.
“We do plan on developing a residence for people with disabilities in the Town of Evans,” Stresing said in the statement. “We hope that the community will be welcoming and supportive of the people moving in. They are eager for this opportunity, and we plan to continue to be good neighbors much as we are in many municipalities throughout Western New York.”
A hearing was held Nov. 7 by the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, which has 45 days to make a recommendation on the group home site to the state commissioner of mental health, Dash said.
In opposing the group home, the board argued that Evans already has a saturation of them – at least 21. It also takes more property off the tax rolls and alters the agricultural character of the Pontiac neighborhood, the board said.
But residents were clearly more concerned about getting more answers.
“Who is going in there?” asked Ed Smith, who owns property on Ryther.
“We have no qualms about disabled people,” said his wife, Barbara. “But sex offenders? Yes.”
“They’re not letting all the facts out,” said Gerald Ott, who lives next door to the property purchased by Community Services. “They’re hiding things.”