CITY EYES MEDICAL HOUSE PLAN

Public hearing slated for Ronald McDonald-like home for kin of patients

LAUREN STANFORTH
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B5

Date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012

SCHENECTADY -- The city will hold a public hearing this month on the proposed Jack's Place, a Ronald McDonald House-like residence near Ellis Hospital that is in honor of an assistant police chief's son.


But there are unfavorable signs coming from city officials about the plan -- particularly because the initial proposal called for it to be located in a private home in the GE Realty Plot, a historic district in which every home has a deed restriction against development.


City Council agreed to hold a public hearing likely May 28 on creating a new zoning description called a medical hospitality house. If approved, Council members would have to determine in what zoning districts such a house could exist.


But at the City Council committee meeting Monday night, Mayor Gary McCarthy and others seemed less than enthusiastic about going forward with the proposal.


"I think the Falvos have done a great job in taking a tragic situation and turning it into something positive," McCarthy said about the project, which honors Jack Falvo III, who died in 2005 at age 21 in a boating accident on the Mohawk River.


Falvo's father and Schenectady assistant police chief Jack Falvo Jr., who is on the board of the Jack Falvo III Foundation, wants to provide a place to stay for relatives of loved ones being treated at nearby Northwoods at Hilltop in Niskayuna and Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital next to Ellis. But the mayor said the city has too many non-profits already. "When we add more, it shifts more to the tax base," he said.


Councilwoman Peggy King got her colleagues to at least agree to have a public hearing so they can gather input and have more time to ruminate over the matter.


Former city attorney Michael Brockbank, whose home at 1494 Wendell Ave. is under consideration as a site for Jack's Place, said city officials are balking because he is a Republican who worked on the campaign of McCarthy challenger Roger Hull last year.


But McCarthy denied that claim, stating the foundation is now considering other sites so the non-profit can avoid controversy related to locating within the GE Realty Plot. Houses in the plot, a historic collection of streets and residences that were built for General Electric executives 100 years ago, come with what are called restrictive covenants in their deeds to control how the property is developed.


Jack Falvo Jr. could not be reached for comment Tuesday about where Jack's Place might be located.


The deed restrictions could not legally bar Jack's Place from moving into the realty plot, but the plot's association would have the right to sue the foundation.


City Attorney John Polster said even if City Council decides not to create a medical hospitality house definition, Jack's Place could still go before the city's zoning board of appeals and ask for a variance.


lstanforth@timesunion.com - 518-454-5697