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Simao golf course proposal irks neighbors

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A developer’s plan to build a 529-unit apartment complex on nine holes of the Ives Hill Country Club golf course is incensing adjacent Ives Street residents, who fear it would lower the value of their property.

The plan by course owner P.J. Simao was unveiled Monday night at a town of Watertown Planning Board meeting. No decision was made by the board, which outlined the hurdles the project would have to clear, including securing either a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals or a zone change from the Town Council.

In what board Co-Chairman Thomas A. Boxberger called a “sketch-plan conference,” preliminary plans for the project were presented by Patrick J. Scordo, director of engineering at GYMO Architecture, Engineering and Land Surveying P.C., Watertown.

The Planning Board advised Mr. Scordo that the developer should seek the services of an attorney well versed in municipal law to help steer the project through the application process.

Several adjacent property owners attended the meeting, which was not open for public discussion, but they shared their objections to the plan in the lobby of town hall.

“I’m here to protect the investment of my property,” Patrick A. Signor said. “Out my back door would be three two-story, six, seven apartments, and out my side window would be an intersection that isn’t there right now. If it means that I have to come to every meeting to prevent it, then that’s what I’m doing.”

According to Mr. Boxberger, “No matter what happens there has to be a minimum of two public hearings for this project. One would be for if there’s a zone change, the town board would need to have a public hearing for the zone change. If there’s going to be an application to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance, there has to be a public hearing for that. And then there has to be at least one public hearing for the site plan with the Planning Board. So no matter what way they go, there’s a minimum of two public hearings.”

In addition to the 529 units that are proposed on 63 acres of land in the town, Mr. Simao has proposed 32 two-story duplex units built on 16 acres of city property, Mr. Scordo said.

At Monday night’s Watertown City Council meeting, Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns pointed out that the project would affect the city and its taxpayers, since it would use city water and sewer infrastructure and depend on city fire and police services.

“We better get out in front of this project,” she told the other council members.

Mr. Scordo said at the town Planning Board meeting that plans for the development will be similar to the 394-unit apartment complex recently begun by Morgan Management LLC, Rochester, on County Route 202. Route 57 Development LLC, owned by Mr. Simao, sold 57 acres to Morgan for the project.

The road design within the complex is proposed to include 24-foot-wide paved streets, which at this point are planned to remain private. Once residents traverse the road within the development, they will have access to a public road. There likely willbe a sidewalk on one side of the road, Mr. Scordo said.

The intermittent sections of the 8-foot-wide golf cart path that now winds through the course would be connected, resulting in a contiguous bicycle and jogging path that would connect to the remaining nine holes of the course through the portion of the development in the city.

One of the biggest concerns about the feasibility of the project, in addition to the zoning regulations, is where the development will draw its water and dispose of its sewage.

“We have had several meetings with the city water and engineering departments about the ability to provide water service and sewage capacity. Those meetings were favorable,” Mr. Scordo said.

There is a sewer line that crosses the golf course, Mr. Scordo said. He also indicated the project would seek connections to town, city and a potential private source for water.

When asked whether Mr. Simao would seek a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the project, Mr. Scordo said, “I’d be surprised if he didn’t.”

Mr. Scordo also was asked whether a market survey had been done to see if there was enough interest in the area for such a large development. He said that though he had not seen such a survey, he believed that in order for him to be contracted to develop the plans, such a survey must have been done.

Once plans for such a project are created and approved, they become a marketable commodity. Mr. Scordo said there was no indication yet that Mr. Simao was looking to sell the project to another developer once plans had been approved.

But neighbors such as Mr. Signor already know they will oppose the plan as it stands.

“I would hope that any development that did go in that area would be similar to what’s there already, which would be single-family homes or something like that, not an apartment complex,” Mr. Signor said.

The Planning Board also heard a much less controversial proposal from Mr. Scordo for the construction of a 5,000-square-foot Nice N Easy convenience store on a 1.5-acre portion of the former Bomax site. The station would have a 16-dispenser fuel canopy off Salmon Run Mall Road.

Construction is estimated to begin in May. An environmental investigation of the site is being undertaken by O’Brien & Gere Engineers, which has been contracted through the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Results of the study will be available within a couple of weeks, Mr. Scordo said.

Mr. Simao also owns the property where the convenience store would be built.

Times staff writer Craig Fox contributed to this report.

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