BY STACI WILSON
New Milford Borough has pledged its full support and backing of the proposed construction of a senior housing complex in the town. And council members said at the February borough meeting that they want to see the project underway as soon as possible.
But the window of opportunity for the Susquehanna County Housing and Redevelopment Authority to apply for the next round of Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency funding is quickly closing.
Susquehanna County Housing and Redevelopment Corporation only recently closed on its purchase of the former Southern Tier Plastics building on Church St. Plans are to demolish the building and erect a three-story, residential apartment building on the former, industrial site.
However, to make the funding application more attractive to PHFA, zoning in the borough needs to be changed. SCHRA asked the borough council to consider granting a zoning variance at the site and are also seeking a full change to the borough’s zoning ordinance.
The change of zoning from industrial to residential would give the grant application five additional points, explained SCHRA executive director Karen Allen. The project could hinge on those points, she said.
Council president James Carr said that both a variance and change of use must go before the zoning hearing board. Those hearings must be advertised and neighbors near the project site notified of the possible zoning change.
Council wasn’t sure if the zoning board would be able to complete the process by the March 1 application deadline.
Carr said, “I want to make it clear we are behind this.”
While waiting for the zoning to be addressed, council opted to draft a letter to accompany the funding application voicing the borough’s support of the project.
“Our intent here is to make this happen,” Carr said.
Council member Jane Zick said she has already had a number of New Milford residents approach her who are interested in living in the proposed apartment complex.
Allen said that if the project wasn’t approved for funding in this round, the application would be resubmitted for the fall funding round. She assured council that the housing project would move forward toward completion of the low-income, senior housing.
“That’s who we serve,” said Allen who stressed the large need in the area for affordable senior housing.
Although Allen said SCHRA preferred to build the housing for low-income seniors, if funding did not come through, a different option for housing – such as a town house complex – could be explored at the site.