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Frenchie’s Chevrolet receives variance for service area expansion

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MASSENA - A variance approved by the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday will allow Frenchie’s Chevrolet to move forward with another portion of its expansion project.

But a final phase - the construction of a driveway along the rear of several homes on Burney Avenue - still needs the approval of the Massena village Board of Trustees.

Officials issued a stop-work order in July on the East Orvis Street project because a portion of the $1.4 million expansion falls within 30 feet of neighboring homes on Burney Avenue and required either a zoning variance or a re-zoning to proceed.

Since then, Code Enforcement Officer Gregory C. Fregoe rescinded the original permit covering the entire project, which he said he issued in error, and broke the expansion into several different pieces.

Zoning Board of Appeals members unanimously approved the next phase of the project Tuesday, a 20-by-70 foot expansion at the rear of the building. The variance was necessary because otherwise the expansion would bring Frenchie’s too close to an adjacent residential zone.

The extended service area will contain facilities to wash vehicles, Daniel S. Pease, attorney for owner Real “Frenchie” Coupal, said.

A new design will make the service area a drive-through facility. Customers will drive into the building and deliver their car to a technician. When the car is ready, the owner will exit the other side of the building on a driveway along the rear of properties on Burney Avenue, according to Mr. Pease.

That driveway exit still needs the approval of the village board, which tabled the issue at its Tuesday meeting, held shortly after the zoning board’s.

Mr. Coupal is pursuing a rezone for a portion of his four Burney Avenue rental properties in order to construct the driveway. Mayor James F. Hidy said the village board still needs to receive input from the planning board before it can schedule a public hearing and vote on the rezone.

The driveway construction has caused controversy in that neighborhood. Lois Guay has lived in 9 Burney, next to Mr. Coupal’s rental properties, for nearly 60 years. Neither she or her companion, Mary Moran, plan on moving anytime soon, Ms. Moran previously said.

Ms. Moran urged village board members Tuesday night to reject the re-zoning because of how the driveway would affect the surrounding neighborhood.

“We still totally disagree with this along with the other people who live on the street,” Ms. Moran said. “We have to live there. That’s our home.”

Trustee Patricia K. “Trish” Wilson said the driveway issue was complicated.

“It’d be tons easier if there were no other neighbors,” she said. “We’re watching out for their needs too.”

At the end of the meeting, village resident Mark Patterson spoke up in favor of Mr. Coupal’s project. Years ago, a garbage dump used to exist on Frenchie’s property adjacent to the homes on Burney Avenue and was probably unpleasant for those neighbors, he said.

“There used to be batteries stacked 12 feet tall,” he said.

Frenchie’s is established in Massena and deserves approval, Mr. Patterson said.

“We’re not talking about some guy that’s coming in here fly by night,” he said.

Brian Hayden contributed to this story.

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