By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig today said he’s not surprised the state rejected Rehabilitation Support Services’ application for low-income housing funds for an affordable housing development project in the Sixth Ward.
“Oneonta does need affordable funding,” he said, “but, unfortunately, the way RSS went about it was not the right way.”
RSS’ plan sparked controversy last October when Sixth Ward residents and business owners abruptly learned the organization had developed a site plan to build 64 affordable units, with 14 for people in recovery from substance addiction.
They packed a city Planning Commission meeting on October 17, in which RSS revealed its development plan. All Sixth Ward residents attending the meeting opposed the project.
On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on six organizations in The Southern Tier which received $21.3 million in tax credits and low-interest loans from the New York State Homes & Community Renewal’s 2018 Unified Funding applications. RSS was not one of the six.
“I had recommended at that Planning Commission meeting for RSS to hold off a year, build community support and good will, listen to what the community would like, and make changes, and resubmit their plan after that,” said Herzig. “But they didn’t do that.”
Instead, he said, “They chose to pursue state funding without the Planning Commission’s approval or further dialogue with the community.”
Herzig said RSS did withdraw its plan from the Planning Commission after the October 2018 meeting and revise it. Besides the city’s concerns, RSS discovered not all of the property was owned privately so that they would be able to purchase it from the private owner. The city owns a corner of Duane and West Broadway Streets, which was in RSS’s blueprint.
However, RSS did not resubmit the revised plan to the Planning Commission. When the organization submitted its application to the state for tax credits, it did not have the city’s approval included in the application package because the city had “no active application on file.” Without city approval, it decreased RSS’ chances of being awarded state funding.
“It’s very unusual for applications submitted to the state without an active application on file,” Herzig said of the state awards. “This is a competition. Communities showing approval from the city are the ones selected.”
“RSS’ approach was a little backward,” Herzig added.