A controversial housing project in St. Albans cleared a major hurdle this week, despite the misgivings of area residents.
Borough President Helen Marshall on Monday granted conditional approval to the residential and community services building being proposed by the Presbyterian Church of St. Albans.
The church is looking to build a structure of nearly 65,000 square feet at 118-27/47 Farmers Blvd. with 67 affordable housing units and space for some of the church’s social service programs.
It would rise from three stories in the front to four and then five toward the rear of the property.
Community Board 12 last month voted in favor of variances for the floor area, the number of units, building height and parking spaces, of which there would be 23 on site if the plans are approved by the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.
Sharon Johnson, first vice president of the St. Albans Civic Association, and a long-time community resident, believes the building is too big for a residential block, and fears that 200 or so new residents could overwhelm the neighborhood.
“Start with the schools,” she said. “How many children will be coming in? PS 36 is overcrowded. IS 59 is overcrowded.”
She said parking and traffic already are issues, and that 23 on-site parking spaces will force everyone else from the complex to seek parking on neighborhood streets.
And the height, she said, is completely out of character with homes for one to three families.
“The bigger the housing project, the more profitable it is,” she said. “Why does it have to be 67? This is about greed, not need.”
The proposal also is offering space for educational and career-training services, youth and senior citizen programs
Johnson acknowledged, as did Marshall, that the church and its pastor, the Rev. Edward Davis, have a long history of service to the St. Albans community.
But she also feels that residents were not given enough public notice early in the application process.
“The problem isn’t with the man,” she said about Davis. “It’s about the plan.”
The Chronicle was unable to contact Davis prior to deadline, but Marshall reiterated on Monday that her approval was conditional on church officials establishing a dialogue with the community.
“St. Albans Presbyterian Church is well-rooted in the neighborhood and has a long record of community service,” Marshall said in a statement issued by her office. “The church’s project would provide much-needed affordable housing and allow the church to expand its valuable social programs.”
She added that the stepped design, rising from three floors to five toward the rear of the property, is intended to address residents’ concerns over the building’s height.
“For these reasons, I believe the church’s variance application should be approved as long as the church agrees to establish and participate in a community dialogue group,” Marshall said.
A date for BSA proceedings was not available.
Johnson said a meeting at the church, located at 190-04 119 Ave., was scheduled for tonight, Dec. 19, with a start time of between 7 and 7:30 p.m.
Church officials could not be reached to confirm the time and place.
Members of the public who still object to the project can attempt to sway the BSA once its public hearing process begins.