Press-Republican

March 26, 2013

City considering major development

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — A major housing development is being considered for the City of Plattsburgh’s South End, but is it too big?

“The size of this is just overwhelming,” Planning Board member William Ferris said at Monday night’s meeting to discuss a plan to construct a 96-unit apartment complex in a vacant lot where New York Road and Route 9 come together.

The five-acre property used to house the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base Hospital.

FOUR PHASES

The project, being floated by attorney and former City Court Judge Gary Favro, is called Lewis Heights in honor of Clyde Lewis, the former head of the Plattsburgh Airbase Liaison Committee who is largely responsible for bringing the Air Force to Plattsburgh.

The base was open in Plattsburgh from 1955 to 1995.

The development would be built in four phases over about an eight-year period, Aaron Ovios of engineering firm Robert M. Sutherland PC, who was representing the developer, told the Planning Board.

The meeting was to discuss a sketch-plan review of the project. It is too early to know whether the project would require any vaiancesNo votes were taken.

SIZE QUESTIONED

Ovios said the development would feature one- and three-bedroom apartments, some with garages.

“The market is flooded with two-bedroom units right now,” he said.

When complete, the project would include two buildings nearly 400 feet long each and three stories high, which raised some issues with Planning Board Chairman Joseph Rotella.

“I am concerned about the size of these buildings,” he said. “They are almost 400 feet long. They might be too big.”

Ovios said one of the reasons the plan was brought to the Planning Board was to find out concerns and perhaps make adjustments.

“We wanted to present this idea to let you know what were thinking of and get some input,” Ovios said.

The plan will comply with Zoning Board regulations for parking spaces, density and green space, Ovios said.

The property is owned by the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corp., which has been marketing it for several years. Ovios said the developer is talking to PARC about a sale.

The Planning Board members grilled Ovios about the plans for about 45 minutes Monday night, with most of their concerns about the size of the buildings.

“It would be nice to have some kind of common areas, maybe a playground or something,” Ferris said.

Karen Ricketson stressed that the size of the project needs to be looked at again.

“Density is the question. I just want to make sure you know that,” she told Ovios.

OBJECTION

Rotella also said the board received a letter from resident Carol Klepper complaining about the size of the project and the impact it could have on the surrounding areas.

Ovios said the plan will be revisited after meeting with the Planning Board and the Zoning Board in April, and it could be changed.

“We will look at it and see how we can improve it,” Ovios said.

TAX BOOST

City Councilor James Calnon (I-Ward 4), who serves as the city’s budget officer, said that adding a 96-unit housing development would be a nice boost to the city’s property-tax rolls.

“But we are always concerned about how the development will be, and that is why we have safeguards in place with the zPlanning and Zoning Boards,” he said.

“But I do think this is an appropriate use for this property, as far as I can see.”

Email Joe LoTemplio:jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com