A Kelberman Center housing project that will bring 60 new housing units to Sunset Ave. in South Utica has neighbors concerned that the building, and the number of new residents, will overwhelm the block.

The site is the former Sunset School, 2507-2513 Sunset Ave. It's owned by attorney J.K. Hage who is transferring ownership to the Kelberman Center. Their plan is for office space for the Kelberman Center on the lower floor. A dozen housing units will be reserved for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, while the remaining 48 would be open to anyone. Executive  Director Dr. Robert Myers said the units are considered 'workforce' living, targeting those who earn between $25,000-$55,000 dollars. Some of the Kelberman Center staff who will work at the new building will live there as well, he said.

''We're happy to have them in our neighborhood, we would just like the project smaller,'' said Lindsay Bonanza who lives nearby. ''We're happy to take a 50% reduction....we'll get out our shovels to help them build it, if it's just a little smaller,'' she said on Keeler in the Morning this week.

Former Sunset School near Sunset Ave and Meeker Ave in South Utica (via Google Maps)
Former Sunset School near Sunset Ave and Meeker Ave in South Utica (via Google Maps)

Bonanza said other concerns centered around the impact on traffic and sewer infrastructure. The project will include 94 parking spaces on the existing footprint. She said a traffic study only would have been required had there been 100 or more parking spots.

Myers defended the project by highlighting support from city officials, and the Kelberman Center's record. ''In our 15 years I don't think we don't have a blemish,'' saying the non-profit's reputation as a community partner speaks for itself. He also said they sought input from neighbors earlier on the in the process, and said public hearings had been held, adding that he felt the Center had gone above and beyond what was required by law.

''This is very done,'' Myers said. ''Our financing is in place, our funding is in place, our grants are in place.''

Some funding for the $14 million dollar project is coming from the Officer of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, he said.

As it relates to water and sewer, Myers said the structure is designed to sequester rain water to prevent it from going into the sewer system. He said did not know the potential impact on the electricity grid, but said, ''this is a very green building.''

''What you're gonna see from us in the future is a fully engaged neighborhood center...our staff, our people, our office, meeting together with community members in this workforce housing model, is something that is not just going to be great for people with developmental disabilities but it's ultimately less expensive of a program for long term support...and allow us to support more people with disabilities.''

Myers said he hoped housing project would serve as a national model.

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