Eden Group Home Decision Now in the Hands of the State

The fate of a plot of land in the town of Eden is now in the hands of a state official. It will be up to the commissioner of the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities, OPWDD, to decide whether or not a group home can be built there. Time Warner Cable News reporter Sarah Blazonis has more on why the town doesn't want to see that happen.

EDEN, N.Y. --  Eden residents do not want to see another group home built there. One woman said the push-back isn't against the developmentally disabled.

"It's the saturation levels. We have one group home for, roughly, every 1,100 people," said Susan Wilhelm, who said the proposed facility would be just 300 feet away from her own house.

A hearing officer from the OPWDD listened to arguments from the town and from Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled, the group that wants to build the home. Fire, police and emergency services representatives say they're called to the eight existing group homes in the town disproportionately more often than to other residences.

Officials also say they're losing about $21,000 a year because the homes don't pay regular taxes.

"This is putting a strain on those services that a home would be looking for, based on our experience with the homes that are already here," said Eden Town Supervisor Glen Nellis.

The CSDD's president said only five of the homes in the area are similar to the one they hope to build, and it's unfair to look at emergency call data from all of them to predict added strain from a future one. As for concerns that some of the up to six residents of the new home could be sex offenders, she said that population makes up less than one percent of those the CSDD serves.

"I can't tell you specifically who would be on the priority list for people with developmental disabilities in a year, whether there may be somebody who's a registered sex offender or not. But I can tell you the majority of the people who are on that priority list are absolutely not registered sex offenders," said CSDD President and CEO Mindy Cervoni.

At one point, the hearing officer brought up the Padavan Law. It's the law that's meant to prevent over saturation of group homes in any one community. He reminded town representatives that they'll have to prove that the addition of this new home would change the essential character and nature of the community in order to prevent it from being built. It's something town officials say is almost impossible.

Nellis says it's something he'd like to see state leaders take a look at.

"I think we've got an obligation in the legislature to take a look at this law and revisit it, not to get rid of it, but to take a look at it and let it catch up to 2015," said State Senator Patrick Gallivan, who attended the meeting.

The CSDD said it would also be willing to work with the town to develop a proposal for the home aimed at needs seen within the community.

For now, both sides await the decision from the OPWDD.

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