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Developer ignores moves by town to stop project Low-income housing opposed by neighbors

WHEATFIELD -- Construction of a controversial housing development for low-income renters is proceeding despite actions by town officials.

Michael Riegel of Belmont Shelter Corp., one of the developers of the Town Houses at Shawnee Landing, said he has not made any moves yet to stop work on the 64-unit project.

The town supervisor's office has implemented a number of actions in the last two weeks to stall the project in response to an outpouring of opposition from neighbors who said they don't want a housing development for low-income residents in their affluent area. Shawnee Landing is situated on eight acres between Shawnee and Klemer roads near several subdivisions that have homes valued in the $200,000 to $400,000 range.

Supervisor Timothy E. Demler said he sent a letter Thursday to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development seeking to cut off funding for the project "as a result of the environmental issues such as traffic, which is No. 1."

"In response to the concerns brought up, this project is being stopped," Demler said Friday. "HUD will determine if it should go forward." About 159 letters in opposition to the project were received in the town clerk's office during the official comment period related to a portion of the funding.

Another letter will be sent to State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, to pull more than $100,000 in state funding, the supervisor said.

Although it has not been determined how the $9.9 million project would be affected by the removal of the two funding awards, Demler said he remains confident.

"If the funding fails, the project fails," he said in reference to the government subsidies.

Demler also ordered the town Highway Department to close the access road from the site to Klemer on Wednesday and announced a townwide moratorium on all construction last week that was lifted almost as quickly as it was issued.

Access to the two-lane road was closed because it is inadequate to handle the construction trucks, along with the resulting dust and mud, Demler said.

But Belmont Shelter's Riegel said, "Work is proceeding as normal." According to his information, the contractor received a notice from the town not to use Klemer Road. He has asked to see the letter but has not received it yet. Construction would continue "absent any formal notice from the town," he said.

A "road closed" sign and wooden barricades were placed at the site, he said. Large concrete blocks also have been placed there but are now not in the way of trucks. He noted the developers "don't intend to break any laws."

A check of the work site late Friday afternoon found at least three pickup trucks there. The barricades and sign were moved to the sides of the entrance. A strand of yellow "caution" tape across the entrance was torn in two.

When three of the truck drivers left after 4 p.m., they moved several orange pylons into the entranceway and tied together the ends of the tape.

Riegel said the contractor doesn't need the road for construction vehicles until next week.

He added that it was a "distinct possibility" that the construction traffic could be routed to Shawnee Road as some officials have suggested.

However, he also questioned the effectiveness of Demler's letter to HUD at this point in the process.

"My understanding is that the contracts are already in place," he said.

Meanwhile, the neighbors have organized a political action group that intends to go to court for an injunction to stop the work. About 200 gathered at Adams Fire Hall last week to map strategies.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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