Albion approves 40-unit apartment building on Liberty Street
ALBION – DePaul Properties today secured local approvals for a proposed 40-unit housing project on Liberty Street.
The Village of Albion Planning Board approved the site plan, and the Zoning Board of Appeals approved three variances for the project.
With the local approvals in place, DePaul said it will work to secure final state financing for the project. Construction of the project, including demolition of three vacant houses, is expected to start in October 2019.
DePaul wants to have 36 one-bedroom units and four two-bedroom units. The one bedroom units can have up to two people and the four-bedroom apartments have room for up to four people.
DePaul will have staff on site to oversee the apartment complex, and also to take residents to appointments with a DePaul van.
“This is to build community housing for people for people who don’t have it right now,” said Gillian J. Conde, vice president for DePaul.
During public hearings by the Zoning Board and Planning Board, residents asked who the project is targeting for tenants.
DePaul is designing the project to support people with disabilities, including senior citizens and veterans. The organization will do extensive background checks for credit, criminal and sex offender history and evictions.
“This is not housing to rehabilitate offenders,” Conde said.
She was asked if the project would hurt local landlords. Conde said she didn’t think it would impact landlords who provide quality housing.
She expects many of the tenants are currently “doubled up” living with friends or family.
Ron Vendetti, the village’s code enforcement officer, said the project will likely force landlords to improve many of the other apartments in the community.
“If you provide a better product, you’ll get the better people,” Vendetti said, responding to a question.
He said the new apartments would be a significant improvement to the neighborhood on Liberty and Beaver streets. Two of the houses being demolished have been vacant for several years and are covered with brush and vegetation. Another house was recently vacant following the deaths of the long-time residents of the house.
Betty Sue Miller, director of Hoag Library, said she hears from many lower income patrons at the library that many of the apartments in the community are infested with bed bugs and are not appealing.
“I don’t want to see local landlords who do a great job get hurt,” she said about the project. “But there are bad landlords. Some people are living in squalor because that’s all they can afford.”
DePaul will offer the one-bedroom apartments for $675 a month, including utilities, while two-bedroom units are $775 monthly.
Tenants on Section 8 will be eligible to apply for an apartment at DePaul, but Conde said the project isn’t focused on Section 8. She expects veterans, senior citizens and some people needed mental Health and other services to be tenants.
DePaul is proposing to demolish three unoccupied houses on Liberty Street, between the railroad tracks and Beaver Street.
DePaul needs variances for the project. It is proposing 50 parking spaces, when the village code requires 80 (two parking spots for each unit). DePaul is seeking a 5-foot rear setback when the village code requires 25 feet. DePaul also wants a fence to be 8 feet high for a sound wall on the south side of the property, instead of the 7 feet required by the village code. The vinyl fences won’t be white, DePaul officials said.
DePaul anticipates the 50 spaces will be adequate based on the demand at its other apartment buildings because many of the tenants do not have cars.
With the rear setback, DePaul will plant a row of evergreen trees for additional screening. DePaul also wants the taller sound wall to mitigate noise from the neighboring rail line.
The ZBA, led by chairman Richard Tibbits, approved the variances while the Planning Board, led by chairman Matthew Hand, approved the site plan.
The village needs to work out a PILOT with DePaul for how much it will pay the local governments in revenue. Those agreements are typically for at least 10 years.
Linda Smith, a local resident, said the village should have worked out the PILOT before approving the project. Smith owns several apartments in the village.
She didn’t like that her state tax dollars were being used to fund a new project that may result in increased vacancies in her apartments.
“It will be tough to compete against an entity with your tax dollars when they’re not adding to the tax dollars here,” she said.
DePaul officials assured her they would provide local governments with annual payments, and those payments might top the property taxes the site would generate without a PILOT.