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Moving Lockport's boundary may impact plan to house recovering addicts

Moving Lockport's boundary may impact plan to house recovering addicts

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Switzer Building Davison Road

The former Niagara County Infirmary, also called the Switzer Building, on Aug. 7, 2018. It would be converted into apartments for recovering substance abusers under a plan from Cazenovia Recovery Systems.

Most real estate deals don't have as many moving parts as the transaction the elected officials of the City and Town of Lockport will discuss Wednesday.

The city's Common Council and the Town Board will host a joint public hearing on shifting a chunk of land on Davison Road from the town to the city.

The property has been sold by Niagara County to a construction company, which made a deal with Cazenovia Recovery Systems of Buffalo to house 40 recovering substance abusers on the site.

Some of them would be placed in the 104-year-old former county infirmary — also called the Switzer Building — which has been vacant for 16 years.

At present, the border between the city and the town runs right through that building.

Other apartments would be placed in newly constructed buildings.

"These services are definitely needed in Lockport and we hope to provide these types of programs in the face of the opioid epidemic," said Edward Cichon, a spokesman for Cazenovia.

LHC Holdings, a subsidiary of Mulvey Construction Co. of Lockport, bought the infirmary, six smaller buildings and 17.5 acres of land from the county last year for $100,000.

If the municipal boundary isn't moved, any redevelopment would have to be approved by the planning and zoning boards of both the town and the city.

But, moving the entire parcel into the city doesn't cut all the red tape.

Mayor Michelle M. Roman said the city's Planning Board needs to approve the annexation of the land, now in the town, before the Council can vote on it.

Town Supervisor Mark C. Crocker said the town's lawyer believes an environmental impact process is needed before the Town Board can vote.

Both municipalities are required to vote on the change within 90 days of Wednesday's hearing, set for 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.

If the whole parcel is shifted into the city, a rezoning will be needed to allow Cazenovia to develop the project it wants — 40 apartments for alcohol and drug abusers who have been through treatment.

Alderman Richard E. Abbott, who represents the part of the city affected by the move, said he favors the annexation "so the city can control the planning and development of the project."

But, he said, his constituents don't approve of Cazenovia's plans for the site. Abbott said every call he's received about it has been negative.

Crocker said the Town Board favors the concept of letting the city take over the land, but public opinion from town and city residents could alter the board's stance.

"It's not going to be a pretty picture at the public hearing if these people show up and say they don't want that in their neighborhood," Crocker said.

Cichon said Cazenovia Recovery plans some community outreach after the hearing.

"We also hope to incorporate community feedback into our plans," Cichon said.

Cazenovia has received $500,000 toward pre-development expenses from the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a private entity, and intends to apply for state aid this fall, Cichon said.

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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