Catholic Charities: It's all about the site


By Patsy Nicosia

Anyone who expected an answer to the Catholic Charities question Wednesday went home disappointed.
The Village Planning Board won’t likely rule on the proposed 12-apartment affordable-income project at Granite and Campus Drives even at their June meeting, attorney Shawn Smith said.
What’s more, the project is an allowed use.
Planners are looking at the proposal’s sketch plan, which covers things like layout, design, pedestrian traffic, and water runoff and not who will live there.
“You’re certainly welcome to comment,” Mr. Smith told the 50-60 people in the audience at the public hearing, continued from April.
“But you’re probably going to have to come back next time and do it all over,” as the Planning Board gets more information.
About a dozen people did comment on the proposal, sharing now familiar concerns on both sides of the issue, after the Planning Board took care of some housekeeping details.
Someone—it could be the Planning Board or the Village or Town of Cobleskill or Schoharie County--needs to complete a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the proposed complex.
At the start of Wednesday’s meeting, planners took the logical step of naming the Village Planning Board the lead agency.
But next, Mr. Smith said, they should really forward that decision on to the village, town, and county for their input and to make sure they agree.
“I came to this kind of late, but the village engineer should really look at this or be a part of it too,” Mr. Smith added.
“I don’t mean to delay this for anyone, but we need to make sure we go through every step that’s required.”
After that, planners ruled that the proposed project is an “unlisted” action under SEQR, a step that will determine what they need to consider in their environmental review.
With that settled, the Planning Board opened the floor to speakers, nearly all of whom have spoken before.
Gary Morgan, who rents student housing, said he agrees there’s a housing crisis in Cobleskill—but argued the Catholic Charities project isn’t going to solve it.
The project—likely tax-exempt—is going to require services from the police, fire department, pool “without contributing a nickel,” he argued, and said instead of decreasing what the Department of Social Services pays to temporary house people in hotels, “it may even increase the burden on DSS.”
Dan Meaney, who owns a string of buildings on Main Street, said he’s not opposed to low-income housing.
“It’s the location,” he said.
Mr. Meaney also accused Catholic Charities spokesman Tom Coates of being “aggressive and deceptive” at an informational session held the previous Wednesday.
“Why would you not tell us the truth? This is Catholic Charities not telling us the truth,” he said.
Marilyn Janicek, who’s operated a B&B on West Main Street for 35 years, said she’d heard Mr. Coates’ comments very differently and said the project has her full support.
Pat McCloud, who’d be a neighbor, said she has no problem with the apartments and without naming names, suggested other speakers “want to get their hands on the property for student housing.”
Mr. Morgan said she must be referring to him—and said she’s wrong.
“I have no interest in putting student housing there or anywhere else,” he said. “And I’ll sign an affidavit to that.”
Angie Smith, who runs Catholic Charities Domestic Violence Program, said she could probably send three or four families into housing like what’s being proposed every month.
“The housing that’s afffordable for most of them? Rats, bed bugs, appliances that don’t work, electricity that doesn’t work,” she said.
Craig Morlang chairs the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals and is a member of the CPC.
He also owns the lot behind the site proposed for the Catholic Charities project, a lot owned by Marvin Parshall Sr.
Mr. Morland has recused himself from any voting on the Catholic Charities project, but has lobbied and spoken against it.
Wednesday, he criticized it for some of the site issues the Planning Board will be reviewing including the fact that there’s no place for snow storage and suggesting that there are too many units to meet the village’s open space requirements.
“All of the money coming to build this is taxpayer money,” he said. “On top of it, rents are subsidized by the state. Not all of us drive BMWs.”