GOWANDA - The Zoar Valley Clinic in the village of Gowanda soon may have a permanent home in the downtown business district. Tim Greenen of Savarino Companies was at the monthly Planning Board meeting to answer questions.
Greenen said Savarino Companies, a construction and development company, has been working with the village for quite some time on acquiring the space. This is not the first time Savarino Companies has been involved in the village; it previously worked on Academy Place project. Greenen gave some background information on the project.
"In late 2011, we began looking for a location in the village for medical offices. We looked at the real estate that was available. We talked to the building inspector We understood what the ordinance was. We understood what the zoning was and we bought the Burger King at 42 Jamestown Street which was an ... abandoned building," Greenen said. "We thought Jamestown (Street) is a community we could invest (in)."
OBSERVER Photo by Samantha McDonnell
The former Burger King located at 42 Jamestown St. in the village of Gowanda is being looked at for the relocation of the Zoar Valley Clinic.
In 2012 the Zoar Valley Clinic entered into a lease agreement with Savarino Companies. Greenen said he understood the village would have to review site plans but the company had the "right to build on this site as any landowner would." In January, Greenen had the site review plans completed and was told there was a new planning board which would have to be review any plans. He came in front of the board in February. Greenen came to the recent meeting asking for a recommendation to the Gowanda Village Board the company should build on the site and a negative declaration on the SEQR which the planning board was lead agency on.
The Zoar Valley Clinic currently serves 246 people and operates like a doctor's office, Manager Linda Fonti said. Individuals come to their scheduled appointments and group therapy for mental health services within the office building then leave. One of the concerns brought up previously was a bus stop on Water Street in front of the building for patients. The clinic offers a transportation van service for patients who do not have transportation to their appointments.
"We have no problem with you adding as a condition into your approval that there be no bus stop in the front of the building," Greenen said.
Fonti said all patients that will be using the clinic are already from the neighboring areas - Perrysburg, Collins and Dayton - and will not be coming in from elsewhere. She said the front of the building will have no physical markings classifying it as a mental health clinic. Planning Board member Ralph Swanson had questions about residents having anonymity but Fonti stressed the patients are OK with this change.
"This project has been going on for quite a long time. A lot of the people who come to the clinic already know the potential of where we may be located at. They're excited about it and happy because some of the specifications of what we can do at the site," Fonti said.
The existing parking lot will stay where it is but will be repaired. Since the parking lot is partially in a flood zone, the company has applied for a flood zone application. During normal business hours for the clinic, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., employees will use the parking lot. On weekends and after-hours, the public can use the parking lot for surplus parking in the downtown area. There will also be no hanging outside the property and no smoking on the grounds.
"We will make sure our tenant does not have anybody outside the building. We have rules and regulations. We're not an absentee landlord. In the end, I think this will be a nice addition to Main Street in the village in both terms of structure and how it's laid out, but also in bringing 20-25 new people downtown in terms of state employees who will go to lunch and shop at the stores," Greenen said.
Resident Mark Nephew had questions about the property being a former gas station and motor oil being dumped. He also had questions about a piece of the parcel being listed as a superfund site. Greenen assured the village the site is no longer a hazard. The SEQR investigated those issues and came back negative. Swanson said the planning board can't discriminate against a medical office building, no matter what the specialty.
"The village attorney has told us we have to look at it as a medical building. How do we say you can't build this building when you got two dental offices, a chiropractor, you've got a clinic and you've got a doctor's office ...," Swanson said.
Resident Andy Burr wanted to clarify that the medical offices in downtown were all existing buildings which offices moved into. This building will be a brand new structure following the demolition of the current building.
"We're talking about a new construction of a new facility ... in my estimation it looks in no way like anything else in the village. Just from an architectural standpoint it looks completely different from anything in the village, it doesn't fit in," Burr said.
Greenen said the building will have a general retail looking facade which can be changed if needed. If the medical office building were to succumb, the building could be used as a retail space. There is a 20-year mortgage on the building and Greenen said they are investing into the village for the long-term saying the project will cost about $2 million. Planning Board member Kim Luther said there is no other person wanting to invest that much money into a vacant building.
Planning Board Chairman Tim McKeever said the board cannot discriminate against any medical practice, echoing Swanson's statement. He said they don't want to put the village into a position where possible litigation may be taken. The board accepted a negative SEQR declaration and also recommended the village board approve the plans. The board also suggested a public hearing be held by the village board to give residents a chance to voice their opinion. To view site plans, visit www.savarinocompanies.com and search under current projects under the "Projects" tab.
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