Glens Falls Planning Board approves Open Door mission project
GLENS FALLS — Open Door Mission can begin renovation of the four-story building at 224-226 Warren St. for its new home now that Glens Falls Planning Board approved the site plan by a 4-2 vote on Tuesday.
Open Door Executive Director Kim Cook said renovation will be done in phases with a priority on renovating space for a soup kitchen and Code Blue shelter to provide overnight emergency housing on severe cold nights in the winter.
"The kitchen and dining room is one of the main concerns, as well as somewhere we can do Code Blue. We can’t keep moving that around,” she said.
Open Door, a Christian mission, now operates a soup kitchen on Lawrence Street in Glens Falls, and has operated a Code Blue shelter at various locations in Glens Falls and Queensbury the past three winters.
The mission will relocate its soup kitchen to Warren Street, and sell the Lawrence Street building.
Open Door plans to spend $5 million to buy, renovate and furnish the 224-226 Warren St. building, until recently a furniture store, for emergency and short-term housing, educational and recovery programs, a drop-in day program, food pantry, soup kitchen, chapel and possibly a health clinic.
The Open Door is under contract to purchase the building.
Planning Board member Peter Accardi, who voted ‘no,’ said he is concerned The Open Door would be duplicating some services already provided by other organizations and agencies.
There was a tense moment when Accardi questioned how much the mission has raised for the project.
“I’m not sure, and I’m not sure if it’s relevant to your consideration,” said Mark Schachner, a lawyer for The Open Door.
“Yes it is (relevant),” said Planning Board Chairman Daniel Bruno.
Bruno said it’s the Planning Board’s responsibility to make sure an applicant does not start a project and then leave it unfinished because of lack of funds.
“What we’re going to tell you is that we’re not going to start a phase until we have the money to complete the phase,” Schachner said.
Planning Board member Ronald Greene, who voted ‘no,’ said he is concerned about erosion of the tax base because the building would become tax exempt.
Schachner said The Open Door is willing to discuss a payment in lieu of taxes arrangement if the arrangement applies to all nonprofit property owners in the city.
“We’re not insensitive to that,” he said.
The Planning Board approved the site plan with conditions.
One condition is that The Open Door frost the windows on the north side of the building, and, if the neighboring property will allow it, plant a hedge row along the property line.
Planning Board members suggested this condition in response to comments from Pat and Bill Sennett, of 7 Platt St., who are concerned about neighborhood privacy.
“It’s right in our backyard,” Pat Sennett said.
The couple submitted a petition signed by 27 residents in the 1st Ward neighborhood that oppose The Open Door locating there.
Pat Sennett said The Open Door facility is needed in the city, but the location is not appropriate.
Glens Falls 1st Ward Councilman Jim Campinell, speaking after the Sennetts, endorsed the project.
“This is the neighborhood it belongs in,” he said. “We need to help them (the homeless) any way we can so we can assimilate them back into society.”
The location is ideal because it is on the transit bus line, near the Warren County bike trail, and is walking distance from downtown, said Andrew Allison of AJA Architects and Planning of Glens Falls, a consultant on the project.
Other conditions the Planning Board imposed include Open Door leaders meeting with neighborhood residents, submitting additional details about the roof structure, submitting a prioritized list of construction phases, and consulting with the city engineer about water and sewer infrastructure.
Planning Board member Rachel Murray, who voted “yes,” said she understands the concerns of neighbors.
“If I were in the neighborhood, I would be concerned about people just hanging out,” she said.
Planning Board member Kathleen Doyle, who voted “yes,” said services The Open Door will provide are necessary.
“Glens Falls has always been a caring community. … I think it’s a very good project,” she said.
Planning Board member Ethan Hall, who voted “yes” said the construction plans are thorough.
“This is a well submitted package,” he said.
Cook on Wednesday released to The Post-Star letters of support for the project from SUNY Adirondack President Kristine Duffy; Rich Jenks, chief financial officer of The Barton Group; and Lottie Jameson, vice president for regional planning and development of Adirondack Health Institute.
“Open Door’s track record speaks for itself and while it is disheartening to recognize that our community has substantial need, we must do every thing we can to pend the essential services to improve the quality of life for all citizens,” wrote Duffy, the SUNY Adirondack president.