ROTTERDAM — Neighbors upset at how Helderberg Avenue might change and senior citizens who want new housing options both spoke out at a public hearing Friday night on the proposed Whispering Pines senior housing complex.
The proposal by Lecce Senior Living, owned by developer Lou Lecce, calls for building 496 senior housing units on the site of the Whispering Pines golf course on Helderberg Avenue.
“The neighborhood will definitely be changed by adding this commercial complex,” said Shelley Dodson, who lives next to the golf course.
An overflow crowd of more than 100 people attended the hearing at the Town Hall, with about 25 people speaking during a hearing that lasted just under two hours. While a majority of the speakers were from the neighborhood and expressed opposition, audience reaction indicating there were also people there on both sides, and some people spoke in favor of the plan.
“Most of us realize as we get older we don’t want to maintain our homes, but we still want to stay in the area,” said resident Kathleen Conboy. “I can’t imagine how this is threatening to people in the area.”
The hearing was on changing the zoning of the golf course from agricultural-residential to a new senior living zone, a move that would be needed for the Whispering Pines project to move forward.
The original version of the project, submitted to the town in 2017 as a 680-unit planned development district, was controversial. It was withdrawn by the developer, the Lecce Group of Niskayuna, after extensive public criticism. The total number of proposed units had been reduced to 521 units by the time the plans were withdrawn by the Lecce Group in June.
Revised plans submitted in February call for construction of 496 residential units, including a mix of houses and apartments, on the 90-acre property.
Two former Town Board members who were on the board in 2017 and didn’t seek re-election, Rick Larmour and Joe Vellano, spoke against the project. “This project, like having a meeting on a Friday night, is a terrible idea,” Vellano said in a presentation that played to the crowd.
“This is the wrong project in the wrong place,” said Helderberg Avenue resident Bill Sheehan, one of several people to express concerns about traffic increasing because of the senior complex and its employees.
“Maybe we do need housing like this. I don’t disagree with that,” said neighbor Nick Esposito. “I just disagree with the area.”
The current plans call for 67 single-family houses, 58 townhouse units, 119 independent-living apartments, 144 assisted-living units and 108 memory-care units. Some recreational uses would be allowed, and the 18-hole golf course would be redesigned as a 9-hole executive course, which would remain open to the public. While there would be a new clubhouse, the earlier proposal’s plan for an on-site emergent care medical facility has been dropped.
The owner of the Whispering Pines golf course said the family is looking to sell and was impressed by the quality of other Lecce projects.
“The majority of my neighbors support this,” he said. “You’re going to hear from a small, vocal minority. If you want to do what’s best for the majority of people in Rotterdam, then this is the project for you.”
Town Board members have not indicated when a decision will be made, but it won’t be until after the current environmental review is completed.
Written comments on the environmental impacts and the proposed zoning change will be taken through May 25 at [email protected], or by writing to Peter Comenzo, town planner, at the John F. Kirvin Government Center, 1100 Sunrise Blvd., Rotterdam, N.Y. 12306.