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Dr. Stankovic again denied by town zoning board

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MASSENA - The town zoning board of appeals has again denied Dr. Miljan Stankovic’s request to operate his OBGYN practice out of his home.

But Dr. Stankovic said he will continue operating his business despite the ruling.

The board voted 4-0 Wednesday night to reject Dr. Stankovic’s petition following a two-hour review of the facts in the case. The board had already rejected a use variance for him, and in a later vote, determined his business did not fit the zoning code’s definition of a “home occupation.”

State Supreme Court Justice David R. Demarest sent the case back to the zoning board in March and ruled it should once again examine the facts in the case. Another lengthy review did not change board members’ minds Wednesday night.

Board member Lynn Smith said the ultrasound machines and the examination tables with stirrups in Dr. Stankovic’s practice did not qualify as equipment which could be used in a home occupation.

Dr. Stankovic said he planned to rid himself of the ultrasound machines when their leases expire and could get rid of the examination tables if need be.

“I wouldn’t call them equipment,” Dr. Stankovic said. “I would call them furniture.”

That answer did not fly with Mr. Smith.

“An examination table is not part of a normal household,” Mr. Smith said. “I feel very strongly about that.”

Dr. Stankovic offered to go to Walmart and buy new tables without stirrups, but Mr. Smith rejected the offer.

“We’re not wheeling and dealing here,” he said.

Allowing Dr. Stankovic to practice would not be fair to neighboring properties, Mr. Smith said.

“I also am well aware of the objections of the neighbors,” Mr. Smith said. “I do believe the office would detract from the serenity of the neighborhood.”

Mr. Smith also said Dr. Stankovic could not employ two-part time staff who were not family members in his home per the zoning code. But Town Attorney Eric Gustafson said that fact could not be considered.

“Judge Demarest ruled the employees were not an issue for consideration because of the way the code is written,” Mr. Gustafson said.

Code Enforcement Officer Gregory C. Fregoe issued a cease and desist order for Dr. Stankovic on March 21. The order is currently pending in town court, Mr. Gustafson said.

Dr. Stankovic said he was initially planning to build a medical office near Massena Memorial Hospital. But the recession hit, and his patient levels dropped, necessitating the need for a home office. He told board members he would consider downtown office space if the economy rebounded again, but he currently can’t afford to.

After the meeting, Dr. Stankovic said he is continuing to practice despite the rejection and cease and desist order.

“This zoning board meeting was a pure intellectual exercise. It will have no consequence,” he said. “It’s not affecting the business now, and it’s not going to affect the business in the future.”

Dr. Stankovic said he was actually approved for his business because the town planning board did not act on his home occupancy application within a 62-day period last year.

“According to Massena law, I was approved,” he said. “I’m still here. I’m still seeing patients. I’m still accepting patients.”

Dr. Stankovic said he will continue to seek approval for his business through the courts.

“They’re going to lose in court, that’s all I can say,” he said of the zoning board.

Massena businessman Paul Morrow, who attended Wednesday’s meeting in support of Dr. Stankovic, blasted the zoning board afterward.

“They’re an embarrassment to Massena,” he said.

But board member Robert Rufa said he felt the ZBA acted with due diligence.

“I know we did our function as the board,” he said.

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