By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – Residents reacted angrily to the City Council’s Feb. 23 concurrence with Coachlight Properties’ request to eliminate the park behind the former McKinley School as part of its revised senior housing proposal.
At the March 8 council meeting, at which letters from residents were read into the record, and callers were allowed to voice their displeasure to the council, several council members were quick to note that any plan would still have to go to the planning commission, and back to the city council, at which point it could be denied by city officials.
Resident Dawn Marie Howard, who lives in the 500 block of Cherry Street, wrote that she is organizing a protest to the new amendments to the former McKinley School redevelopment proposal.
She said the original agreement was for market-value senior living apartments, and did not include assisted living and memory care units, the plans for which show that they would be developed on the current neighborhood park site.
“Traffic will include shifts of employees to cover 24-hour care to residents, service trucks, visitors and ambulances,” Howard said. “This does not belong in the middle of a neighborhood.”
She said she and her husband do not want to see a parking lot directly across from her house, with car headlights pointing into the front and side of their house.
“We have waited years for this development and the new park,” Howard said. “Now we are being told a parking lot will go across the street from our house and the park will be removed.”
She said moving the park to Grove Street is an illusion, since Greenbelt Park already exists in that location.
Howard said four registered sex offenders live within two blocks of Greenbelt Park, which is also three blocks from the city’s foul-smelling wastewater treatment facility.
“We all know that something needs to be done with McKinley, but this is not the solution,” she said. “Years have passed since the Coachlight project was originally proposed and researched. The development company was not able to live up to their end of the deal.”
Brandon Crupi, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2009, suggested that the city demolish the former McKinley School and develop the land into residential property, so the city does not continue to lose potential tax revenue from the site.
“If the city were to raze the building, the city could produce 14 to 16 residential lots, and keep a sufficient amount of space for a park,” he said. “There have been some beautiful homes built in the area.
“Given the current state of the housing market, there is probably not a better time than now to abandon the current plan to construct a sizable business in the middle of a residential zone, and rezone it to single-family housing.”
Crupi said service trucks, visitors, residents of the facility, doctors, ambulances and emergency vehicles traveling to a business in the middle of a residential area would be an “accessibility nightmare.”
“I would be one of the first to agree that a proper and humane facility such as the one proposed is a good idea to have in the city, but it’s just not a good idea to construct it in the middle of a neighborhood,” he said. “If the city is inclined to include a business like the one proposed, I am sure it can find other spaces near a proper thoroughfare to accommodate a similar business.”
Resident Susan Lynne Roppel said that while she was in favor of a senior apartment project, she is opposed to an assisted living facility and a memory care unit a block from her home.
“We will diminish the value of our homes and the quality of our life in our quiet neighborhood,” she said. “That type of project needs to be on a main thoroughfare, not in the center of a residential neighborhood.”
Roppel said she and many of her neighbors oppose the revised plan.
“We emphatically ask, once again, that you reject this proposed change in purpose from the original approved plan, and protect our neighborhood peace and safety,” she said.
Resident Rebecca Pilon said, in addition to concerns about nuisance, traffic, and property values, she calls upon the city council members to heed the concerns of the neighborhood’s residents.
“There should be a professional real estate independent case study to show the cause and affect on our neighborhood,” she said. “In my opinion, the burden of showing factual data on this being a benefit lies with the city and the developer in order to even try and gain acceptance from the residents.”
Pilon said she realizes that the developer proposed the changes to increase the profit margin, and for it to make business sense.
She said that there would be parking overflow onto the streets of the residential neighborhood.
“We already struggle in some areas for parking when a lot of our homes in this neighborhood do not have driveways to park in,” Pilon said.
She also mentioned the sirens of emergency vehicles, and the possibility of dementia patients leaving the secure area and wandering through the nearby neighborhood.
“At this point, I believe the best decision for the neighborhood is to have McKinley School torn down, and the space turned into single family lots,” Pilon said.
Councilman Robert Alderman said a lot of good points were made in the letters submitted by residents of the neighborhood.
“We could have seen that months or a year ago,” he said. “We thought we had fixed the problem three-and-a-half years ago by giving the company the green light to move forward, and obviously that hasn’t happened.”
Alderman said a representative from the company did not appear to answer questions from the council at its Feb. 23 meeting.
Councilman Leonard Sabuda said he has been following this project for many years, and said the current proposal by Coachlight Properties is not right for the residential neighborhood.
“When it was 55 and older, I could see that, and I thought, perhaps, I might like to have one of those units,” he said. “But, now that we are putting all these amendments in, it’s just not the right thing.”