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Wheatfield opponents of housing project plan strategy session

WHEATFIELD -- Opponents of a low-income housing development being constructed on Shawnee Road will meet this week to map strategies to stop the project.

Some of the residents of subdivisions on Shawnee plan to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday to discuss their fight to stop Town Homes of Shawnee Landing, a 64-unit development designed for tenants with low incomes. The meeting will be in the Adams Volunteer Fire Hall on Nash Road.

Resident Carl Carbone said he and a group of neighbors have retained Buffalo attorney Richard Lippes.

The $9.9 million Shawnee Landing is being developed by Belmont Shelter Corp., Buffalo businessman Paul Granville and a church, the Church at Shawnee Landing, formerly known as the Payne Avenue Christian Church of North Tonawanda.

The 8-acre parcel would include 11 buildings near Klemer Road with one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments in single-story or townhouse style. Also planned is a community building.

Plans include a church building to be constructed on part of the other 15 acres owned by the church.

The development has been the subject of two heated meetings among neighbors and officials. Residents protested that a housing project for the impoverished would be situated in their neighborhood of $200,000 to $400,000 homes.

Unsigned fliers were distributed to mailboxes that claimed people "of all colors" would be moving into the area.

Rents at Shawnee Landing will range from $400 a month for a one-bedroom unit to $600 a month for four bedrooms, according to Belmont. Applicants for units would be screened and their income would have to be no greater than 60 percent of the median income in the area. That amount would range from $24,480 to $34,980, depending on the apartment size. Because the meetings so far were little more than venting sessions and shouting matches, Belmont plans to send informational materials to the residents.

Intended to clear up misconceptions and misunderstandings, the material would present "what they [Belmont] didn't get to explain at the meetings," according to Town Attorney Robert O'Toole.

The development was first proposed in 2003 as housing for senior citizens and the disabled. When federal funding for elderly housing went to another project, plans for Shawnee Landing switched to multiuse, based on income.

Town officials said they were kept in the dark about the switch.

Supervisor Timothy E. Demler told residents he did not recall being told the final plans were no longer solely for senior citizens and the disabled. Planning Board Chairman Richard Muscatello said plans sent to the federal level were not the same as the ones shown to him.

However, Belmont representatives firmly maintained that all town officials, as well as Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, and State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, who jointly sponsored $600,000 in funding for the development, were fully apprised of every move.

Michael Riegel of Belmont stressed that the town and the politicians were notified and everything was done in a timely manner and in compliance with regulations.

Demler last week ordered construction to stop until the situation was resolved.

One of Carbone's objections, he said, was that the town rezoned the land for the project without proper notice. Opponents also said the Town Board waived the need for an environmental impact study.

Although no complete impact statement was ordered, studies were done of other areas of concern such as traffic, O'Toole said.

Town officials have agreed that traffic in the area is already a major problem.

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