It appears that Little Falls is preparing to have itself used as an experiment for the benefit of a few wealthy individuals and an outside developer with the Zaida project.

When the 2018 Draft Comprehensive Plan was developed, it presented a synthesis of survey results of what citizens wanted for the City, and a cohesive view of the steps to achieve it, along with priorities.

There was no mention of multi-family housing, much less low income and Section 8 housing. The tone of the initial report leaned towards renewal of older housing, repurposing of “brownfield” sites, and with an overarching main goal to “Aggressively Position Little Falls As An Ideal Place For Well-Educated And Highly-Skilled Labor Force To Live”. One can safely assume that such individuals would prefer to live in single family houses.

It was only later, after Opportunity Zones became mapped and formalized, that multi-family housing was inserted into the plan, and along with that came the developers that have latched onto the Opportunity Zone bandwagon. These outside developers don’t want just one project in town, they want multiple projects to increase their efficiency. It is, in effect: find another project along with the Dairyman Project. So they did, and now we’re faced with not one, but two projects that fly in the face of moving Little Falls forward towards the goals expressed in 2018.

For some reason our city officials, both elected (look to your Aldermen) and appointed to the Planning Board and Zoning Board, allowed these projects to be inserted into a revised 2021 plan without adequate public discussion, much less a public referendum.

So now we are faced with these low-income multi-family projects being proposed for our city. Again, did any voters have a say in this? Answer: No. Did any voters have a say as to the members of the Planning Board and the Zoning Board who will need to vote to change the zoning to permit this development? Answer: No, they are not elected; they are appointed.

Another question we can all ask ourselves is: why isn’t this project being proposed elsewhere in the city, say up by Millenium Court? It has the same R1 zoning and would require the same variances. It’s not in the middle of a fully developed neighborhood up there, so there is space.

Conveniently, there is no space on Waverly Place for such a development either.

Furthermore, aside from the location, why is it even being considered now? Why not 10-20 years ago? Answer: It’s not based on local demand, it’s based on tax breaks and incentives. The occupants will not be from our locality. Demand for housing- single family housing, should be based on market demand. The City has plenty of space for new homes, people just need a reason to build them.

The Zaida Project stands to benefit a developer and a few local landowners at everyone else’s expense. As proposed, this project will negatively impact all of the people living in the developed and well maintained neighborhoods of West Monroe St, Top Notch, Highland Ave, Argon Place, and Valley Brook Drive areas. It will demand more city services which will translate into more city taxes.

Just take a look at the developer’s website (where they already state that it’s “coming soon,” as though it’s already approved) to get a sense of what’s in store for the area:

“The project includes a diverse mix of housing: (i) 72 units for general occupancy up to 60% AMI (folks, that’s 60% of “Area Median Income”, so below the poverty level); (ii) 36 units set aside for supportive service populations, specifically survivors of domestic violence, veterans, and at-risk youth; and, (iii) 30 units supported by project-based Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. ICAN, will be providing on-site services for the supportive housing units.”

By the way, ICAN, or “Integrated Community Alternatives Network” is based out of Utica and “strives to empower children, families and individuals who have high service needs…” just to provide a further indication of the residents that this development will draw.

Also, with Section 8 low-income housing, here are the benefits to the developers/investors:

1.) The developers receive a tax credit, which can be passed on to the investors.

2.) Section 8 partially pays the rent for these units, so the owners are effectively guaranteed full payment. There is a very low bar to meet the requirements to qualify for this housing, so how much effort/concern will there be to determine who lives there?

3.) As part of the rent charged, it will include the cost of maintaining these properties. And, no surprise, one of the developers -Rock City Development is the sister company to Rock City Services. So, in other words, the investor who receives payment for the land, tax credits for the housing, and guaranteed rental income, will also be paid for maintaining the property.

This will not be a benefit to the community, only to a select few. It will be a burden- a burden on an already financially stressed city.

Ariel Twitchell
Little Falls New York