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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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Massena Zoning Board says no to trailer on Hammill Road

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MASSENA — The town Zoning Board voted 3-0 to reject a use variance application made by a widow hoping to move to Massena to be closer to her children.

Carol Lawrence of Burke applied for a variance to allow her to place a single-wide trailer on a plot at 913 Hammill Road owned by Richard LaChance.

Zoning Board Chairman Harry F. Cullen said a 2009 zoning revision prohibits single-wide mobile homes in places other than trailer parks.

Kelly McCarthy, who operates Riverview Homes in Ogdensburg, noted that the mobile home Ms. Lawrence was attempting to buy had been in Massena for 35 years. Mr. McCarthy said the plot Ms. Lawrence was hoping to buy previously had housed a single-wide trailer.

“We’re just asking to replace the single-wide with another single-wide,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Mr. Cullen said it didn’t matter because more than a year had passed since the previous home was removed from the property.

“If it was moved and replaced in less than a year, it would have to be grandfathered,” he said. “Once you get past that year, it is not grandfathered.”

Mr. LaChance, who said he was unaware of the town’s ban on single-wide trailers, said the 200-by-200-foot lot has a slab for a single-wide and a septic system.

Zoning Board member Lynn A. Smith said he hopes Ms. Lawrence can find a double-wide home in her price range.

Ms. Lawrence said she is living on $389 a month in Social Security.

“I need to be closer to my children,” she said. “My husband died last year.”

Since the changes to the code were adopted in 2009, Mr. Cullen said, there have been two previous applicants seeking a similar variance, and both applications were denied, although one of the applicants did end up installing a double-wide on the property.

To get her variance approved, Mr. Cullen said, Ms. Lawrence would have had to meet four criteria: that the property is incapable of earning a reasonable return on initial investment if used for any of the allowed uses in the district; that the property is being affected by unique, or at least highly uncommon, circumstances; that the variance, if granted, would not alter the essential character of the neighborhood, and that the hardship is not self-created.

“Use variances are very difficult to get,” he said.

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