JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown City Council voted unanimously to enter into a funding agreement for an affordable housing project during a City Council voting session Monday evening, but not without concerns from one City Councilman.
Jamestown City Councilman At-Large Jeff Russell initially told the council that he was hesitant to vote for the resolution, which involved a mitigation agreement for $350,000 with the Southern Tier Environments for Living, Inc. (STEL). STEL previously submitted a project involving the adaptive re-use of the Gateway Center at 31 Water St. and adjacent properties at 53 and 55 Water St. for a 110 unit multifamily affordable / supportive housing development.
The City Planning Commission originally issued a Negative Declaration and approved the site plan for the Project contingent upon a mitigation agreement.
The resolution says that the mitigation requires STEL to, among other things, provide funding to the City Department of Development, for the dedicated purpose of a program to acquire, abate and demolish 96 bedrooms in vacant and uninhabitable housing units in the City of Jamestown, on properties to be identified by the City Department of Development in collaboration with the Chautauqua County Land Bank.
Russell says that he is in support of providing affordable housing and reducing blight. The Councilman, however, says the City would end up needing to provide more funds to complete the project.
“I feel that if this project is going to go forward, that this amount should be changed,” Russell said. “If STEL wants this project, than STEL should pay the total cost of nearly a million dollars to eliminate the 96 bedrooms per the mitigation agreement. I think it’s my financial responsibility that the City, JURA, the DOD, should not be on the hook for six-to-seven hundred thousand dollars to make this project go through by eliminating these potential 96 bedrooms.”
“I don’t oppose the humanistic side of this program, and I appreciate the hard work that’s gone into it by all….The dollar amount on this, I just don’t agree with.”
City Councilwoman Marie Carrubba, who says she previously was against the project, now supports it. She adds that the City would actually save money long term because it would have ended up having to spend the full money on demolitions down the road.
“What we have here is an opportunity to take a building that will never be redone, in all likely hood, that the City would ultimately have to demolish, but it would also create safe, affordable housing for many individuals,” Carrubba said.
Mayor Eddie Sundquist informed the Council that the project received all of the legal approvals needed to move forward. If the Council would have voted down the resolution, STEL wouldn’t have needed to pay anything towards the project.