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Developer defends Lockport apartment plan

LOCKPORT – DePaul Properties contended Thursday that its apartment project at South Street and Elmwood Avenue in Lockport would not harm the value of homes in the neighborhood, as an alderman charged at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting.

“We have never seen property values diminish. We have a history of property values going up,” said Gillian Conde, DePaul vice president.

The not-for-profit organization operates or is building “mid-market” housing projects in Buffalo, West Seneca, Rochester, Schenectady and elsewhere in the state. DePaul also has a division that plans an assisted living and memory care development in Wheatfield.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Alderman R. Joseph O’Shaughnessy said there are about 10 recently constructed single-family homes near the South-Elmwood site.

“We do have a responsibility to those members of our community who built those houses,” said O’Shaughnessy, D-at large. He added that after DePaul’s project is built, “There’s no way in hell those properties are going to be worth the same.”

The plan is for 60 one-bedroom apartments in a three-story building, Conde said. Twenty-one of the 60 units are set aside for persons with mental illnesses, she said.

“It’s not geared toward families. It’s geared toward adults that need services,” said Alderman Richard E. Abbott, D-5th Ward. However, the apartments are available only to those who meet an income threshold, with a maximum for a single person of $28,320 a year.

Conde said DePaul does a background check on each prospective tenant, ruling out those with criminal records, including drug use, registered sex offenders, a history of evictions, those who can’t pass credit checks and those who have been suspected of terrorist connections.

“I don’t think we need another 60 apartments,” O’Shaughnessy said.

Abbott disagreed. “When someone comes in, we need to be friendly. We have a high poverty rate in the city,” he said.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said the DePaul project, being proposed under the name Aero Apartments, resulted from a private real estate transaction between DePaul and the former owner of the vacant lot. No rezoning is needed, but the site plan needs the approval of the city Planning Board. That is expected to be on the board’s Sept. 12 agenda.

DePaul doesn’t have to pay the city any taxes, because it is a not-for-profit organization, Conde said.

But it has offered a 30-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes contract, starting at $12,000 a year and increasing by 2 percent per year.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the city would have to share that with the Lockport City School District and Niagara County. “I don’t know why we even go through this, because it’s not a lot of money,” he said.

Abbott, however, estimated the tenants would end up paying about $36,000 a year in water and sewer bills.

Conde said the plan is being revised to take into account objections raised at a public meeting Monday. Residents said the plan didn’t include enough parking and the layout might have made it difficult for fire trucks to reach the building.

“We’re taking that input very seriously,” Conde said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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