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LACKAWANNA BOARD TABLES BID FOR TAX-FREE BONDS TO FINANCE HOUSING COMPLEX FOR SENIOR CITIZENS

Tax-free financing for a senior citizen housing complex in Lackawanna was tabled Tuesday evening in the face of public opposition, and the developer said he may withdraw his proposal.

"I'm tired of being treated like a yo-yo here," Michael L. Joseph, president of Clover Management, said after the Lackawanna Municipal Housing Authority Board of Commissioners tabled his request to float $6.4 million in tax-free bonds for the complex at 3380 South Park Ave.

"This community doesn't know what it wants," Joseph said. "We shouldn't be wasting our time on a project that they may or may not want. We're considering withdrawing our proposal and taking it to a community that is much more open to senior citizen housing."

Among those speaking against the 148-unit complex were Fourth Ward Councilman Ronald R. Spadone and County Legislator Edward J. Kuwik, who spoke as a resident of the Autumn Acres development near the site.

Petitions signed by 180 residents opposing the project were presented to the board.

"I am begging the board to take the time and give careful consideration to whether this will be a tax contributor or a tax burden to the City of Lackawanna," said resident Joseph DiCenzo, who again reserved a position on the agenda five days beforehand.

Distributing copies of a hand-drawn color chart to the commissioners, DiCenzo said Clover's offer to pay $50,000 the first year in lieu of taxes and 4 percent more each year for the first 10 years would amount to $600,300. Clover would then begin paying full property taxes.

However, DiCenzo said, if Clover would offer $60,000 the first year and 15 percent more each year, it would end up paying $1.2 million during that decade -- still considerably less than the $2 million in taxes that he would normally pay.

In reply, Clover attorney Jonathan D. Schechter said the Municipal Housing Authority has only one question to answer: "Do you believe in safe, affordable senior-citizen housing for Lackawanna, at below-market rent for people with incomes below a certain threshold?"

Schechter said questions of taxes, planning and zoning should be handled by city officials.

"Those issues don't fall on your head," he said. "That's up to the mayor, the city and the Planning Board."

Schechter was referring to objections made by Spadone and Kuwik that a senior housing complex in a residential neighborhood would deflate property values and overwhelm the already burdened water, sewer and drainage facilities.

Charles Barone Jr., executive director of the housing authority, told commissioners that while favoring low-cost senior housing, he found "too many unanswered questions" in the proposal and couldn't yet recommend approval. Joseph -- who owns or oversees 2,400 housing units in the Buffalo area -- was asked whether he would consider paying more in lieu of taxes, as Mayor Kathleen Staniszewski has suggested .

"The mayor should rely on the experts in her administration who understand the realities of operating a senior citizen complex like this," he said. "We have said to them, 'Show us how we can pay you more.' So far, they haven't shown us how."

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