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Gouverneur considers first-floor apartment in business district

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GOUVERNEUR — The owner of a downtown building wants to use part of its first floor for an apartment – which is at variance with village code — because a commercial renter has not been found.

“We did try to rent it as office space,” said Randy L. Durham, property manager for Northern ARC Properties, owner of 23 E. Main St., formerly the law office of Sanders D. Heller. “There was no interest. We’re still trying to rent it.”

The law office has been vacant for years and was sold recently to Northern ARC.

The company has left the front of the building as an office but is turning the back of the first floor into a three-bedroom apartment.

Having apartments on the first floor of a business district requires a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“It’s very unusual,” Code Enforcement Officer Michael J. McQuade said. “I just tell him there’s extra steps he’s got to do.”

Mr. Durham will make his case before the board at 6:30 p.m. Thursday .

“The value of maintaining commercial uses only on the first floor on Main Street is to ensure that the primary land use stays commercial,” read a memo St. Lawrence County Planning Board staff sent to Douglas Cota, chairman of the Gouverneur ZBA. “If all first floors were converted to residential uses the area would no longer be commercial in nature but residential.”

A decision has importance for Gouverneur’s Main Street and would be precedent-setting, county Planning Deputy Director Jason C. Pfotenhauer said.

Mayor Ronald P. McDougall consulted with Mr. McQuade, who had little problem with the first-floor apartment because it would be in the back with a separate entrance, leaving a front office available for commercial purposes. The decision will be up to the ZBA, Mr. McDougall said.

Legal requirements for a use variance include Northern ARC showing that zoning regulations have caused unnecessary hardship.

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