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Opposition is raised to size of group home

A year after reopening a vacant school as senior housing, People Inc. hopes to use another chunk of its Lackawanna property to build a group home for six developmentally disabled adults.

But some city officials are concerned that the facility will be too large for the property.

Last spring, after a $4 million renovation, the 45,104-square-foot former Franklin School at 146 Franklin St. was reopened as Sunflower Housing, which features 49 one-bedroom rental apartments and a caretaker's apartment.

Now, there's a proposal for a one-story, 2,900-square-foot building at the corner of Franklin Street and Grape Avenue. The matter is on the agenda for the May 2 meeting of the city's Planning and Development Board.

The $359,000 project would be funded by the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

"It's a big piece of land, and it just lends itself very well into doing a home," Rhonda Frederick, the chief executive officer of People Inc., a nonprofit human services agency, said Friday.

But maybe it's not big enough for the building as planned, city officials countered.

"From what I understand, that home is going to be much closer to the street than any home would be," Mayor Norman L. Polanski Jr. said. "They just don't have the room."

"It has to be a smaller footprint, absolutely, because they have to comply to the green space situation," Polanski said.

"We are not just going to roll over . . . because we have a responsibility to the community," Polanski said.

"The property isn't big enough," agreed Steve Bremer, one of the city's code enforcement officers.

He said it will come down to whether the Planning Board is willing to repeal a stipulation mandating that People Inc. provide additional parking space on the property, if needed. If the project goes up, there wouldn't be room for more parking, Bremer said.

"For a building that big there should be 78 spaces. I think they have 30," Bremer said.

"The Planning Board is supposed to review the minutes [of the original agreement] then give their decision," Bremer said. "I can't overturn the ruling of a board without asking them."

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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