Genesis House

Officials from Genesis House homeless shelter received a one-year extension from the city of Olean Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday for the renovation of the former Catholic convent at 943 N. Union St., shown here, into a shelter for women and children.

OLEAN — Those hoping to create a homeless shelter in North Olean have another year to raise funds and get to building.

The Olean Zoning Board of Appeals granted a new one-year extension to a use variance for Genesis House to construct a shelter for women and children at 943 N. Union St., a former convent.

In April 2019, the board granted a use variance to the church for the site. However, the variance was only good for six months. In September, the ZBA approved a one-year extension. That variance was coming due shortly, according to an attorney representing Genesis House and property owner St. John’s Catholic Church.

ZBA member Tom Enright, who previously sat on the board of Genesis House, said the nonprofit’s leadership put in for a state grant in 2019 to help fund the renovation, which he said is expected to run north of $500,000.

“That’s the kind of money it will take,” he said, adding that a new application was submitted this year.

Genesis House officials reported in 2019 that they were seeking a $1.4 million grant for the project.

Board member Charlotte Hardy asked that before moving ahead, that Genesis House provide more information on their funding sources.

“I don’t really care about the amount,” she said, adding she was more concerned with what avenues the nonprofit was trying to tap into and how long it would be before any funding was approved.

While a vote asking to table the extension until the Sept. 10 meeting to get that information before deciding failed, the panel unanimously approved the variance extension. Genesis House officials will still provide the information to the ZBA, however.

While hopeful, a speedy decision by the state was not expected by the board members.

“I used to work for the state — I know how slow they are,” said ZBA member Otto Tertinek, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the state to furlough workers or have them work from home — both of which will delay any decisions on grants.

THE ZBA ALSO welcomed its newest member, Arnim Alexander, who was recently appointed by Mayor Bill Aiello.

The last time the panel had a full board was the summer of 2018, when two members left their posts. It took several months for a sixth member to be seated, leaving a seat open for two years.

The vacancies have occasionally complicated matters, as the board’s rules require a majority of posts to vote in favor of any matter to be successful — several 3-2 votes by majorities of the empaneled members were considered failures due to the two empty seats being counted as nays. An example of that was an August 2018 vote on the Genesis House project, which led to the matter being brought back the following spring.

Filling the posts, Aiello previously told the Times Herald, can be difficult due to lack of interest. ZBA members receive around $500 as a stipend annually for their work.

In addition, ZBA Chairman Jerry Lefeber also noted that Hardy was reappointed to the board. To date, she has served 28 years on the panel.

“What are you doing for the next 28 years?” Lefeber joked to Alexander.

(This story was corrected from a previous version)

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at bclark@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)

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