Town of Newstead residents living near two recently opened group homes came out in force at Monday night’s board meeting to express their discontent with the homes.
Nearly 50 residents packed into Newstead Town Hall for the meeting. A few of residents were there to speak to the board about the Special Events Law the town is working on, but the majority in attendance had concerns about the group homes.
People, Inc. runs the homes, which are located on Rapids and Buckwheat roads. The homes opened over the last several months. The human services organization also runs a home on Bloomingdale Avenue in the Village of Akron.
Residents living on Rapids Road, in particular, were upset about one of the residents of the home being a sex offender.
“I live right next door,” said Joe Dugan, a 23-year retired Army veteran who moved his family to Newstead from Rhode Island. “We knew nothing about what was going on there.”
In a statement to the town board, People, Inc. acknowledged the presence of a sex offender in the home, but noted that the offender had committed the crime over 20 years ago and had “not re-offended in the decades since the incident.”
According to the statement, the homes are “licensed by and subject to the control of the New York State Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.” The individual would not have been placed in the home if the state agency was not sure that he was prepared for the placement, a statement from the agency said.
Much of the anger was directed at the Town Board, which several speakers blamed for the locations of the homes.
“I know how to fight for what’s right, and what you did to us and our families is just wrong,” said Mark Outten, who also lives close to the home on Rapids Road. “You represent us.”
The town, for its part, is bound by New York State law when it comes to group homes, said Supervisor David Cummings.
“The government is pretty much excluded as stated by state law,” he said. “We don’t have a right to say who’s there, where they’re sited.”
Concerns about the police being called to the homes were also brought up, as well as a possible decline in property values for homes near the sites.
“Would you purchase my home?” Dugan asked. “Absolutely not.”
Residents also brought up concerns about noise and parking issues, which People, Inc. addressed in its statement.
“We are taking steps to address those items and we ask for some time and patience while we work through the transition,” it said. “This is a big step for both the new residents and staff.”
Michael Adymy, who also lives next to the home on Rapids Road, said he has nothing against people with developmental disabilities.
“We don’t have anything against handicapped people,” he said. “It’s the level of violent people that are in there.”
The board is going to form a committee to deal with the residents’ concerns, Cummings said.