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Canton planning board nixes student housing

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CANTON — The village Planning Board has unanimously rejected the plans of a developer to turn a dilapidated building into student housing.

Peter L. Hoffman, owner of YNGH, which has rental properties in Gouverneur, Canton and Potsdam among others, wanted to convert a partially burned house at 14 Park Place into a five-bedroom rental for college students. It is next to 14 Park Place, a 10-bedroom student complex that Mr. Hoffman previously converted from a single home.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Mr. Hoffman said. “I want to turn this blighted building into a nice place.”

He purchased 14 Park Place at a St. Lawrence County tax sale several years ago.

Even though both properties have an address of Park Place, a street off the village park, their access in a cul-de-sac is from a driveway on Park Street.

The Planning Board turned down Mr. Hoffman’s request because of parking issues and the worries of neighbors, Code Enforcement Officer Russell B. Lawrence IV said.

“It wasn’t in keeping with the characteristics of the neighborhood,” he said. “The board took into consideration factors required by village code.”

The St. Lawrence County Planning Office, which issued advisory comments, questioned the parking layout.

Although Mr. Hoffman could accommodate the 7.5 parking spaces required for the property, he could follow village code only by intruding on the 15 spaces required for 14 Park Place.

“While the parking configuration submitted shows 23 spaces, some of that parking is located in a front yard, and other spaces appear to not allow for adequate backing up and maneuvering room,” the report stated.

The county planners suggested the village review its requirements.

“Rooming houses and group homes require one-and-one half parking spaces for each room,” the report stated. “Fraternities, sororities and dormitories require one space for each resident. Staff suggests that the village re-examine its parking standards and determine if these standards are still appropriate.”

Mr. Hoffman said he could tear down the burned building to improve parking but would prefer it for student housing.

“I would like to have a productive use of it,” he said.

Neighbors also complained that they did not want more students living in a concentrated area to minimize noise and debris. Mr. Hoffman said residents need only contact him with their issues.

“It’s my job as a good landlord to take action,” he said.

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