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Town to probe change to development Residents raise concerns on unannounced alterations to planned housing project

Town officials plan to meet today with a representative of Belmont Shelter Corp. to find out how plans for a housing development for the elderly and disabled came to be included in a low-income family housing project.

Supervisor Timothy E. Demler said he and Town Attorney Robert O'Toole are scheduled to meet with Michael Riegel of Belmont to determine how Shawnee Landings changed since it was first proposed in 2004.

The topic dominated the discussion at the Town Board meeting Monday night for more than an hour, when more than two dozen residents from the area questioned Demler, the board and members of the town Planning Board about why they weren't notified that the proposal was planned for their neighborhood.
Demler said he was surprised by the changes. He said he only remembered what was proposed by the developer when the project first came up. The plans were submitted by Payne Avenue Christian Church of North Tonawanda for a 64-unit development and a church at Shawnee and Klemer roads to be called the Church at Shawnee Landing.

Targeted for the elderly and disabled, the development was subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The development, which complies with local ordinances, according to officials, would have 10 buildings consisting of six one-bedroom, 14 two-bedroom, 32 three-bedroom and 12 four-bedroom units. Officials said the original proposal was for one- or two-bedroom units only.
Planning Board Chairman Richard Muscatello said the drawings sent to the federal government for approval "were not the ones shown to us."

Demler said Tuesday that he had learned the project was changed so it would be eligible for some $600,000 in federal grant money it was awarded in November.

Belmont was supposed to meet with residents about any changes but never did, the supervisor said.

At the meeting, neighbors complained that the result would be a low-income housing project situated in the middle of an area surrounded by homes valued at $200,000 to $400,000.

"We all know what kind of people we're talking about," said Jim Adams of Knottingham Drive. "I work awfully hard for my money, and I don't want this across the street. It belongs in the city."

Adams and his neighbors said they were drawn to the meeting because of a flier left in mailboxes in the area that outlined the project plans.

"It's just as new to us," Demler said. "We never had a meeting about these changes."

He said he would set up a meeting for residents with the developer before the end of the year to discuss the development and what could be done to structure the plans. He promised neighbors would be notified.

O'Toole said as long as a project meets all codes and other criteria, it can proceed.

"You can't put a limit on who lives in Wheatfield," he told the residents.

Demler agreed and said any attempt to deny the project at this point would be futile.

"If we told them 30 to 50 of [their] neighbors don't want them," he said, "we'd get sued, and they'd win."


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