JAMESTOWN – The City of Jamestown Planning Commission Tuesday unanimously issued a positive declaration for the proposed Gateway Lofts as part of its State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) assessment.
The positive declaration means the commission feels the project may have a significant effect on the environment as it pertains to housing throughout the city and, as a result, the developer for the project – Southern Tier Environments for Living (STEL) – will need to address the concerns outlined by the commission and its staff in a forthcoming environmental impact statement.
City planning associate Crystal Surdyk explained that the reason for the positive declaration was due to the proposed project not falling into compliance with the city’s 2010 Neighborhood Revitalization Plan. Specifically, it would create a large number of housing units within the city.
“It’s our professional opinion that it has been determined that the proposed Gateway Lofts project does not comply with the spirit or intent of the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan adopted [by the Jamestown City Council] on Dec. 27, 2010 by a vote of 9 to 0 and the plan, as proposed, will create a significant impact on the environment that will create the perpetual cycle devaluing, disinvestment, neglect, and abandoment identified in the neighborhood revitilization plan,” Surdyk noted.
STEL and its legal counsel had hoped to that the Planning Commission would instead consider the project a “Type II” action – meaning it didn’t require any further environmental review – based on the project already addressing several environmental issues via its Brownfield cleanup plan, along with no significant additions being added to the existing structure. The group also argued that the project would not have a negative impact on housing conditions because it focuses primarily on individuals who are unable to live in most of the housing currently available within the area. The group also pointed out the project is being supported by Harold Whitford, president of the Jamestown Landlords Association.
Because of the positive declaration, the planning commission did not act on granting the required permits needed in order for the project to move forward.
Following the meeting, STEL representative Steven Ald said the agency will work to address environmental review requirements so the project can move forward.
“It’s a lot of work to go through the SEQR process but we’re willing to it. It will certainly not delay our applications for funding. It may make it less likely to be funded but we are certainly sticking to our timeline to be funded,” Ald said.
In addition to completing an environmental assessment for the state to review, STEL also has the option of challenging the action by the commission if it chooses.
STEL is working with Community Helping Hands and the YWCA of Jamestown to convert the Gateway Center on Water Street into the Gateway Lofts, which would offer an estimated 40 housing units to low income individuals and families members, along with about 40 other units for single parents seeking housing assistance from the YWCA, as well as non-violent individuals with addiction or mental health issues and overseen by STEL. The total cost of the renovation project is estimated to cost $31 million.
The decision by the planning commission came a week after it held a public hearing on the matter in which over two dozen people spoke on the project, with most in favor of it moving forward.
According to the developers, support for the project has been given by several local officials, including: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Catherine Young, Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, County Executive George Borrello, Deputy County Executive for Economic Development and IDA director Mark Geise, Sheriff Joseph Gerace, county Health and Human Services Director Christine Schuyler, and the Homeless Coalition.