Neighbors rip latest 'affordable' Homeland housing plan
Opponents of a revised proposal for a three-unit "affordable" housing plan on Homeland Street got their chance to speak at Tuesday's Town Plan and Zoning Commission hearing, and they came armed with maps, photos, petitions and the support of several elected offficials.
The TPZ closed the hearing on the application, but made no decision.
James Sakonchick, an Orange developer, has tried unsuccessfully several times to win approval for redevelopment plans at 206 Homeland St., beginning with a proposed single-family home that was rejected because TPZ officials consider the parcel part of a merged lot with 214 Homeland St., which is owned by his son.
After failing twice before, Sakonchick, who contends the two lots -- 206 and 214 Homeland St. -- are separate properties, now wants to build a duplex and a single family home on his side of the property, currently the site of an in-ground pool for 214 Homeland St. One of the units would be designated as "affordable" under state income-eligibility criteria.
Neighbors disputed claims by Sakonchick that the prior owner of both parcels, now deceased, had plans to replace the pool with a home.
Homeland Street resident Vincent Maiola said he had a letter from the prior owner's son, who said his father enjoyed the pool into his 80s and never mentioned a desire to build a house where the pool stands.
Assistant Planning Director James Wendt also addressed claims by Sakonchick that his original application for a zoning compliance for only a single-family home on the lot is, under the law, considered as approved because Wendt did not have the authority to sign the letter of denial.
"I have been doing this for quite some time, and at no time has a court ever ruled that I do not have the authority to approve or deny a zoning compliance," Wendt said, adding that the TPZ has affirmed that both he and Planning Director Joseph Devonshuk have zoning compliance authority.
While Sakonchick said his proposal for the three units blends with the neighborhood's character, neighbor Art Rotelli disagrees.
"I think it look a bit more like a sore thumb," Rotelli said.
Neighbors also decried flooding problems that they contend would be exacerbated by the project, as well as traffic and safety hazards for children in the neighborhood. It was pointed out that the Sakonchick's son does not live at 214 Homeland St., but has been leasing the home. The tenants, according to neighbors, have three cars, adding to an already crowded street.
They suggested that three additional units could translate to nine more cars parked on an already congested street.
Another neighbor, Marcie Spolyar, said she watched as Sakonchick conducted his traffic study.
"He did not sit there and count cars and buses," she said. "He doesn't care about the people in the neighborhood. The only thing he cares about is the money."