Subsidized housing at brickyard falls short after feisty Gonic crowd cries foul

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Pickering Road resident and brickyard abutter Mike Kerouac was one of a score or so of speakers who said the subsidized housing project was a bad fit for the village of Gonic. (Cliff Newton photo)

ROCHESTER - After a full hour of hearing Gonic residents lambaste the city's plans to rezone the brickyard to allow 180 elderly and subsidized apartments, Economic Development Director Mike Scala threw in the towel after Mark Sullivan, the city manager's board designee, said the effort was hopeless.
"Some projects are worth the fight and effort; this isn't one of them," said Sullivan, the city's deputy finance director. "I'll endorse it just so you don't get shut out 0-9, but the votes aren't here."
Sullivan said the lack of transparency and how those who came to the meeting knew more about the low-income housing proposal than planning board members didn't help the city's cause.
"We seemed to have dropped the ball before the pass is in the air," he told Scala. "I recommend you withdraw the request."
Moments later Scala did just that to the relief of the more than 40 mostly Gonic residents who attended what was predicted to be a very contentious meeting over Catholic Charities plan to construct the thee apartment buildings, two of which were to be four stories.
Both planning board chair Mark Collopy, who frequently gaveled down a feisty gallery; and David Walker also voiced their objections. Walker called the change to R2 from Industrial spot zoning.
"This looks like a building in search of a lot," he said. "Personally I don't like spot zoning, and this smells like spot zoning; I have no idea why you did this."
Even planning board members voiced concerns over the lack of transparency as Catholic Charities discussed its options and even sent surveyors out to get the lay of the land.
"We saw them on the street and asked what they were doing," said one resident clearly vexed by the city's audacity to be having conversations with entities that wanted to build apartments buildings in an Industrial zone.
"We, the residents of Gonic, had no interactions with the city, we didn't have a back and forth," said Mike Kirouac, a Pickering Road resident. "The process was not transparent, not sure where it started, but I know a part of it was a nonpublic council meeting with sealed minutes. These minutes need to be unsealed."
Scala said the project had been started as part of a statewide initiative state looking to build workforce, age restricted and attainable housing.
Several abutters said they feared the subsidized housing would soon become section 8 and would lead to increased traffic, congestion and crime.

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