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Credit Union plans new Canton branch

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CANTON — Two Court Street buildings are expected to be torn down this summer to make way for St. Lawrence Federal Credit Union’s new office branch.

In May, the Ogdensburg-based credit union purchased the St. Thomas More Newman Center, 33 Court St., from Canton’s St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church for $225,000. The church had been asking $300,000.

St. Lawrence Federal President Todd R. Mashaw said the credit union soon will be finalizing the purchase of an adjacent two-story home at the corner of Chapel and Court streets owned by Elise Mattice.

Both buildings will be dismantled and replaced with a new 2,750 square-foot credit union branch that will include a drive-through and parking spaces, two amenities missing from the existing Canton branch office at 11 Court St.

“We’re hoping to open by Nov. 1,” Mr. Mashaw said. “It’s going to be an attractive building that will provide easier access for our customers.”

Asbestos has to be removed from the Newman Center before the building is demolished. The Newman Center was exempt from paying property taxes because it was owned by the church. The credit union will pay property taxes on its building project, which will help the village’s goal of expanding its property tax base.

Mr. Mashaw said the credit union’s board of directors decided the agency should purchase the vacant home at 39 Court St. so customers would have easier access to the facility from Chapel Street.

That section of the parcel will primarily be used as green space and enhanced with trees and other landscaping, Mr. Mashaw said. The decision to tear down a giant cucumber magnolia tree behind the St. Thomas More Newman Center was not made lightly by the nine-member board of directors, Mr. Mashaw said, noting he’s a member of the board.

Members of the Canton Village Tree Committee had been lobbying to save the tree and some were dismayed last week to find the tree had been removed to make way for the new building and parking lot.

Tree Committee Chairwoman Joette H. Holgado said her group will be meeting to process that event and also discuss what actions can be taken to save heritage trees in the future.

Some communities in other parts of the state, including Westchester County, have local ordinances designed to protect trees, Mrs. Holgado said. Mr. Mashaw said he discussed the Court Street tree situation extensively with his board before a decision was reached. He said he also consulted with the project’s civil engineer and architect before recommending the tree be removed as planned.

“I did spend a lot of time on it, and it was discussed at three board meetings at least,” he said.

Changing the site plan now would require the credit union to return back to the St. Lawrence County Planning Board and the village’s Planning Board for approval. Mr. Mashaw said those measures could delay the project by 60 to 90 days, the loss of a construction season. He added there’s no guarantee the cucumber magnolia tree would have survived the construction process.

He said the credit union has offered to contribute tree plantings or $2,000 to the village Tree Committee to help it continue tree planting in the village.

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