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NEIGHBORS VOICE CONCERNS OVER PROPOSED HOUSING

It would provide an aging town with much needed affordable senior citizen housing, many say, but a plan for Cheektowaga's largest senior housing complex on 30 acres off French Road is drawing complaints from some neighbors.

The proposed $15.5 million French Road Commons, planned for the south side of French between Pheasant Lane and Brentwood Drive, would increase traffic and devalue neighboring homes, residents living on and around French Road said Monday night.

Residents also raised questions about drainage and whether the development would contribute its full share to the town tax rolls.

"The traffic is horrendous on French Road," said Joan Franchini of French Road. "What about these elderly people trying to get out of (the complex)?"

"If this project goes up at the end of my street, does it lower the value of my home when I go to sell it?" asked Marietta Tominich of Rondelay Drive.

Project developer David L. Manko, president of Seneca Creek Development, wants to build about 240 senior-housing units at the site but first needs the Town Board to rezone the property for residential senior citizens housing.

Although the Town Board Monday made no decision on the matter -- and is not sure when it will -- Manko and his development team tried to hash out concerns about the project expressed by more than 20 residents at the meeting in Town Hall.

The senior apartments would not generate much traffic, Manko said, certainly not as much as single-family homes, which is what the property is zoned for now.

Fences, berms and trees would separate the apartments from the neighboring homes, according to plans. Developers say the project will provide residents with their own little community.

The project includes a 67-unit building for elderly who need some living assistance, 14 eight-unit apartment buildings for eligible seniors who earn less than $25,000 a year and 10 eight-unit, market-rate apartments offered to seniors making more than $25,000 a year.

A community center also will be on the grounds.

Plans show one main access onto French Road, which Erie County planners felt did not warrant a traffic signal, another concern of neighboring residents.

"I disagree that there won't be a lot of traffic," said Gloria Wodarczyk of Knollwood Drive, referring to the relatives, children and grandchildren who will visit the seniors in the apartments. "I disagree with this whole project."

Others had a different view.

"I strongly endorse senior housing development in Cheektowaga. We need to raise tax assessments and reduce tax exemptions by offering alternative housing lifestyles," said Patricia L. Wojcik, Cheektowaga's senior services director.

"When I started working in 1975, about 12 percent of the population in Cheektowaga was over the age of 60," she added. "Today, almost 30 percent of our residents are age 60 or over."

In other matters, the Town Board:

Increased Supervising Building Inspector Ronald Marten's 1997 salary by $2,714.

The additional funds come from a federal grant, allowing Cheektowaga's police and building departments to have a Neighborhood Strike Force this summer to tackle neighborhood problems.

The $2,714 is Marten's compensation for the overtime he puts in on this project. Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak and Councilman Jeff Swiatek did not vote for Marten's adjusted salary.

Swiatek said this sets a bad precedent of giving town department heads overtime and adjusting their salaries during the middle of the budget year.

Asked Benderson Development Co. to install sidewalks in front of its shopping plaza at the northeast corner of Union Road and George Urban Boulevard.

Authorized the Federation of German-American Societies to hold its German-American Festival Aug. 30 and 31 in Cheektowaga Town Park.

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