Village pauses senior housing

Gwen Chamberlain
The lot at 200 South Avenue where Genecco plans to build townhouses.

Village officials have adopted a local law that puts a six month pause on the construction of and processing of applications for senior citizen housing within the village limits so they can re-write a section of the village code.

At question is the definition of the types of housing that is permitted in the R1 Zoning District (Single Family Residential), which includes the site at 200 South Ave. where developer David Genecco plans to build eight townhouse-style units for senior housing.

The moratorium does not affect existing senior citizen housing, such as St. Mark’s Terrace on Liberty Street.

The moratorium comes after Yates County Judge Jason Cook ruled in the developer’s favor in a lawsuit challenging last fall’s decision by the village zoning board of appeals that the planned project is not a permitted use for the R1 district.

At the time, the ZBA had upheld a decision by Penn Yan Code Enforcement Officer Bruce Lyon that the proposed housing was not permitted in the R1 district, which abuts the town of Milo site where Genecco is building an 74-unit townhouse project on the former home of  Keuka Estates Mobile Home Park.

Mayor Leigh MacKerchar says Cook’s decision creates the possibility that senior citizen housing of any configuration — from manufactured home parks to high rise buildings — could be built anywhere in the village.

“The intent is not to deny senior citizen housing,” said MacKerchar.

The village’s existing code limits the permitted uses in the R1 district to detached 1-family dwellings, semi-detached 1-family dwellings, senior citizen housing, and bed and breakfasts. Lyon and the ZBA determined, even though the project is for senior citizen housing, the project was not a permitted use because it is for townhouses.

Carol Genecco asked village board members if, out of gratitude to the developer for helping to draw attention to the confusion in the code, the village would exclude the 200 South Ave. project from the moratorium. Village Attorney Ed Brockman pointed out a hardship exemption process is available for the developer to consider, but to excuse this project the village would have to re-write the local law, which would further delay the process. 

A site plan review of the project is on the July 1 village planning board agenda. The planning board meets at 7 p.m. in the village board meeting room.

MacKerchar says the village board’s planning and development committee will begin work on the new code language right away. He noted that the developer has met with village officials and agreed to not build a driveway to South Avenue from the Milo project, reducing the potential for increased traffic in the residential village neighborhood.

A June 20 letter to MacKerchar from Genecco’s attorney, Alan J. Knauf, calls the moratorium “sour grapes” on the village’s part because Genecco refused to agree to annex the adjacent project into the village.

He wrote, “The village should welcome senior housing for the growing senior population in the Finger Lakes Region and the village. Rather than doing everything it can to try to stop this development, it should be concentrating its efforts on encouraging development of housing for its aging population.”