WARREN - During a public hearing Wednesday, a half dozen residents spoke against a proposed zone change that would allow a 140-unit senior housing complex to be built on North Road.
Among them was North Road Intermediate School Principal Carl Clark, who said, "I am concerned about the increased traffic flow in and out of the project. I'm also concerned about the increased water run-off from the property. Our playground area already is wet."
Clark expressed concern about a three- to four-story building with balconies on each floor would look down on the school grounds.
He also spoke against the lack of information that has been provided to the Howland School District.
Held before City Council's regular weekly meeting, it was the second public hearing on the project. The notice for the first hearing accidentally listed the property as 907 North River Road instead of 907 North Road. Residents in the area argued they were not aware the proposed project was in their neighborhood, so a second hearing was scheduled.
Property neighbors Kristena Pivovar and Marie Dropcho questioned how the proposed housing complex would affect the property values of properties near the development.
"We would prefer not to have this in our backyards," Dropcho said. "It would decrease our property values."
Joseph Bauers, whose home would be located next to the complex, said he would move as soon as council approves a zone change.
"My house is valued at more than $100,000," Bauers said. "If this is built, it never will sell at its value."
Bauers also expressed concern about the safety of his children.
Jack Mullen, a North Road resident, suggested the city should concentrate efforts on bringing people to the downtown or the near downtown area to reinvigorate and revitalize its downtown.
Mullen said the proposed project would affect high quality wetlands and natural areas between East Market Street and U.S. Route 422.
"I don't believe many people realize that we have such an incredible, high quality wetland and natural area behind the Eastwood Mall and yet so close to populated areas," Mullen said. "With all the great flora and fauna there - it's so important to be good stewards of this very special area and protect it."
Howland Superintendent John Sheets said the adjacent intermediate school houses about 300 students in third to fifth grades.
"The school was originally built on property that was zoned for Residential A, and adjacent properties had the same designation," Sheets said. "I am sure that the school district would not have constructed an elementary school next to an adjacent property that was zoned Senior Citizen Multi-family District."
Sheets expressed concern about the development's design, site access, traffic, property buffer and security.
"I would like to ask that the zone change not be granted," Sheets said.
Sheets questioned whether the project would be given a tax abatement.
Councilman Vince Flask, later, near the end of the council meeting, said he was not aware of any tax abatement being given to the project.
Flask said he would be more concern about increase traffic from new stores being opened off Route 422 or the Eastwood Mall than from the proposed senior housing complex.
"This is not a city project," Flask said. "We are looking at possibly approving a zone change."
Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-7th Ward, questioned the insinuation that having a four-story senior housing complex next to the school equates to placing them in danger because it will be filled with child molesters leering at the children.
"From the information we have, this is to be a positive to this community," Colbert said.
Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, said she has a senior housing complex in her ward and it has been nothing but a positive to the neighborhood and to the city.
"It is my belief that the proposed project on North Road," Saffold said.