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Village of Massena discussing moratoriums on apartments & Main Street building

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MASSENA — Village leaders are considering a moratorium on additional apartments to address what the mayor laments as “a deteriorating fabric in our neighborhoods.”

Mayor James F. Hidy brought up the discussion on apartments during the Board of Trustees meeting this week following a conversation with Trustee Patricia K. Wilson, who said many transient people have been renting properties.

“We’re so inundated with apartments and some of our neighborhoods are deteriorating rapidly,” Mr. Hidy said.

The village board could institute a moratorium of up to a year on the construction of new apartments, he said.

“What we’re trying to do is slow down the apartment process for a period of time because we’re finding that for multiple reasons there’s a deteriorating fabric in our neighborhoods and we, as a board, think either current or potential landlords are satisfied with squeezing as many people as possible into structures that were originally built to house single families,” he said.

Trustee Francis J. Carvel said he felt the matter was more of a planning and zoning issue.

“If they cut up a house, don’t they have to go to the zoning board?” he asked. “It’s a zoning and planning issue.”

Massena resident R. Shawn Gray suggested directing the code enforcement office not to issue any more permits to convert single-family houses into multiple-unit buildings.

Ken McGowan, a foreman with the Massena Fire Department, whose drivers are handling code enforcement responsibilities, said most of the complaints he has received relate to apartments.

Mr. Hidy said he plans to consult the planning and zoning boards on a potential moratorium or more strict enforcement of regulations.

Among the zones in the village, Residential A is made up of single-family homes, Residential B consists of single-family and two-family homes, and Residential C can include single-families and two-families as well as apartments.

“One only has to drive around some of these neighborhoods that are listed as B or C. They once had pristine lawns and were well-maintained homes. Now in most cases they are cluttered with multiple vehicles on lawns and cluttered with unwanted debris,” he said. “We need to slow down.”

When asked if this had anything to do with recent incidents of violence in the village involving people who have moved to the community from urban areas, Mr. Hidy said he considers that an entirely different issue.

Village officials also are considering a moratorium on Main Street construction.

Ms. Wilson said it would be a temporary measure until updates to the village code are adopted. A committee working on downtown revitalization is reviewing steps that could be taken to address blight in the Main Street corridor.

Trustees Timothy J. Ahfeld and Mr. Carvel both initially expressed concerns over the moratorium.

“How will this affect the Baptist Church lot?” Mr. Carvel asked.

Mr. Hidy said he understands a Nice N’ Easy convenience store is planned there.

“If someone wants to build a Nice N’ Easy this summer, we shouldn’t slow them down if they want to add money to the tax rolls,” Mr. Ahfeld said.

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