SPECIAL BOARD MEETING - JULY 17, 2008
The Special Board meeting of the Town Board of St. Armand was held on the above date at the Town Hall, Bloomingdale, NY.
PRESENT: Supervisor Joyce W. Morency, Deputy Supervisor Charles Whitson, Jr., Councilmen Earl J. Dakin, Jr., Samuel Grimone, Thomas Jones, and Town Clerk Cynthia A. Woodson.
GUESTS: Darlene Ploof, Brian Waters, Brad Pollock, Mrs. Pollock, John Jones, Cass Becker, Dale Becker, JoAnn Latourelle, Mary Susan Conroy, Susan Rdzanek, Sue Jones, Donna Bramer, Helene DeSanto, Director of Sunmount; Joe Colarusso and MaryBeth Williams from Sunmount DDSO.
Supervisor Morency called the Special Board meeting to order at 5:00 P.M.
Supervisor Morency stated that because this meeting was announced at the Tuesday board meeting on July 15th that a waiver will be signed; there was not enough time to post in the newspaper.
The team from Sunmount DDSO Marybeth Williams, Joe Colarusso, and Helene DeSanto discussed their process of locating a site for five adults from their program. They are encouraging housing adults in small communities instead of the large institution. The site location is at 88 Rockledge Lane in Saranac Lake. They have visited eight sites and several vacant lots before settling on Rockledge. The double-wide house at Rockledge is a three bedroom, two baths with enough space to renovate for the accommodations needed for the handicapped adults. Family Advocates of these five adults want a smaller place for these people to live instead of a larger place that can house up to twelve adults. The staff for this place will be 15 or 16 people 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The staff will have an average of $40,800 annual salary.
The search was very extensive through on-line and real estate agencies. They wanted an area close by to Tupper Lake. They did look at vacant lots to build but these were not what they wanted. They needed to consider Environmental Standards and Rockledge was a good place it has a double lot for space. Supervisor Morency questioned the parking at the location. Joe stated that they have the driveway and may need to widen it. The men’s age range from 35 to 50's and all are ambulatory. Helene stated that the availability of the house could take a year before the house is ready to be moved in.
The guests each spoke of their concerns having the adults living in their neighborhood. A major concern was do any of these male adults have a criminal background such as a pedophile or dangerous behaviors towards children. It was asked how the parents can protect the kids and themselves from them. Another mentioned if the place will have a fence and security around the home? Helene stated no. A question was asked what felony convictions what would exclude these people? Helene stated none. Many guests stated this is not neighborly that they expressed they wanted. It was mentioned that how could New York State buy the property that has covenants written in the deed that are restricted to the residents, but not restricted to them? How could New York State ignore the restrictions; especially when there can not be a business in the area yet, they will have paid employees, and that is a business?
The residents of Rockledge are concerned with their assessments now because the owners of the house, Fischer’s, will sell for $405,000. The house is assessed at $278,800. They are concerned that their assessments will increase because of this house sale. Donna Bramer mentioned that their assessments should not increase because of one house sale. If more houses sell for much more than the assessed value; then their assessments would increase. The residents stated that this is not fair to the taxpayers plus the house would be tax exempt.
All of the guests from Rockledge expressed outraged about not knowing Sunmount had been planning this without their knowledge or input. Councilman Grimone stated that a letter was sent in late May informing of the criteria and deadline; not enough time to do all the research. He notified some of the people in Rockledge and they helped spread the news for tonight’s meeting. Supervisor Morency did state that it was partially her fault with the notification; as she wanted to get more information. Supervisor Morency stated that the State of New York should have notified all the surrounding residents of the proposed house to buy.
Supervisor Morency stated that the 40 day deadline is not enough time to really help the residents of Rockledge state their opinions and concerns. Councilman Grimone asked if St. Armand rejects this what will happen. Helene stated that there will be a site hearing process. Joe stated that they could abandon the site. Supervisor Morency asked if they have ever had a site abandoned. Joe stated they have but there were alternates suggested by the municipalities. The process will determine if there is saturation of area; how much it will change the character of the neighborhood. St. Armand will have to come up with an alternate site, not Sunmount.
It was asked if the Fischer’s received any money yet as the house is abandoned. Helene stated that they were given some money to take the house off the market until it is ready. The Fischer’s will keep the money for compensation, whether Sunmount buys the house or not. Someone asked if this is on top of the $405,000 offered for the house? Helene stated that it is part of it. Someone asked what the zoning is on the home? Joe stated he didn’t know. It was asked if the zoning will change. Joe stated no, as the State considers it as a residence and not a business.
Councilman Grimone read a letter given to him to read at this meeting. The letter is as follow as typed to Mr. Grimone dated July 16, 2008:
Dear Mr. Grimone:
I respectfully request that this letter be read at the Town of St. Armand Board Meeting on Thursday July 17, 2998 and that it be entered into the official minutes.
On the evening of July 16, 2008 I was made aware that the St. Armand Town Board would be discussing the possible sale of the Fisher residence at 88 Rockledge Lane to the State of New York for use by individuals with developmental disabilities. It is this precise issue that I wish to address in this letter.
As a resident of Rockledge Park, I am gravely concerned about the intended use of the Fisher residence by the State of New York. Having just learned of the possible sale of this residential property to the State of New York, I have a number of questions that I will pose openly and forthrightly. In turn, I fully expect that my town and state representatives will provide complete and detailed responses to each question posed.
The first item that must be answered concerns the intended use of this residential property. While I recognize that any proposed change to the character of a residential neighborhood will elicit the “not in my backyard” response, it is the State’s responsibility to bring this proposed project into the light of public scrutiny. The State of New York must be forthright in its plans regarding the type of residents that it intends to house in this residential neighborhood. Any attempt by the State to house residents that have presented behavioral problems at other residential facilities, who have committed crimes or who are registered sexual predators should not and will not be tolerated in our residential community.
The second item that must be addressed is the impact that this project will have on the infrastructure of Rockledge Park. The increased traffic that will be brought by employees, visitors and trucked in supplies must be studied by the Department of Transportation and the Town Highway Department. The roads of Rockledge Park are narrow lanes consisting of numerous blind hills and curves. These roads were not built with the intention that this area would be exposed to the heavy traffic that will surely result from this project.
The third item of concern is the tax-exempt status of such a project. Should the State of New York purchase this residential property, one of the highest valued properties in our neighborhood would be removed from the tax rolls. In a small rural town such as St. Armand, the loss of this property tax revenue cannot be overlooked as insignificant.
Likewise, the Town Board must also consider the very likely prospect that this project will result in a loss of property value for all residential property in the Rockledge Park. This loss of property value will surely be reflected in our assessments and thus will shift even more of the tax burden to other town residents.
Further, the residents of Rockledge Park live under very stringent covenants. One restriction on our deed states that only single family residences are allowed. Under no circumstance should a group home be considered a single-family residence.
The concerns expressed by residents of Rockledge Park are not those of a group of elitists. Our neighborhood consists of people employed as teachers, counselors, utility workers, medical professionals, corrections officers, clergy, and numerous retirees. We represent a wide range of economic and social backgrounds. However, I believe that we are of one voice in expressing our concern about the impact this project will have on our neighborhood. With nearly no information regarding this project having been shared with property owners, one must believe that the State is attempting to house residents who are not permitted in other facilities. The safety of our children must not be sacrificed!
I implore the town board to immediately impose a moratorium on all permits related to group housing. Every effort must be made by our town representatives to prevent the State of New York from trampling on the rights and the security of the residents of the Town of St. Armand.
Sincerely, Ronald P. And Tracey A. Burke.
A resident asked if the Town rejects it are there any other authority over the Town? Helene stated that it any Due Process in New York State and possibility court. Another asked why picked a place that has covenants and high value; why not meet the criteria and zoning?
Why this site with clear-cut restrictions? Helene stated that they have done extensive search and exhausted all other sites. A resident stated that the law is not written in a way that it makes it easy to reject it (the site).
Supervisor Morency asked Helene if they would get the information requested by the residents to her as soon as possible. She stated that she would.
Supervisor Morency asked for a recess for this meeting to continue at another time when Sunmount provide the information requested.
A motion was made by Councilman Grimone, and seconded by Councilman Whitson to recess the meeting at 7:35 P.M. All were in favor. Motion carried.
I, Cynthia A. Woodson, Town Clerk for the Town of St. Armand, do hereby certify that the above is a true and correct transcript of the Special Board meeting minutes held on the above referenced date.
Cynthia A. Woodson
St. Armand Town Clerk