Apartments next to Community Church would provide needed senior housing; church is open to dialogue

To the editor:

I write in response to the public discussion of the proposal for development of the Community Church of the Pelhams parking lot into a building with apartments for senior citizens, which is a major part of the request for a zoning change that the church and Soren R.E. LLC presented to the Village of Pelham this past month. As compensation for the development, the church would receive a major building renovation, and perhaps a small revenue stream for a limited number of years. As pastor of the Community Church, I’ve taken note of the strong voice of public opposition to this proposal, coming broadly but mostly from our Pelhamwood neighbors. I regret that this plan, or “dream,” is received as such unpleasant news.

What has not been commented much upon so far in the public discussion that I’ve seen is the need for senior housing in the Pelhams. Planning for the future for the Village of Pelham has taken note of this glaring absence. Discussion has been had about the feasibility of creating an apartment on a vacant lot in the business district, but nothing has come to fruition because developing such a building would create prohibitively expensive apartments. That the church site could present a modest start on senior housing should not be overlooked when it comes to thinking about the merits of the proposal in relation to the needs of the community.

What I do take away from the public discussion is the reprimand that the church “sprang” this proposal on our neighbors without prior discussion with them. I take that criticism to heart because I’ve preached countless sermons on the topic of “love your neighbor as yourself” and “who is my neighbor.” I apologize that we did not properly seek out community input when this proposal was being put together. We are open to dialogue with you.

I would ask our neighbors to also think about who their neighbors are… do they not include senior citizens who could benefit from more affordable housing in years to come?

Rev. Noel Vanek

Community Church of the Pelhams

448 Washington Ave.