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Cape Vincent bait shop project raises fears about parking

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CAPE VINCENT — The much-anticipated renovation of the old bait shop on Club Street next to the ferry docks is drawing concerns from neighbors who believe the development would exacerbate the area’s parking shortage.

However, local officials argue the proposed project’s benefits outweigh the potential negative impacts to the area and the Cape Vincent governments have been seeking grant money to mitigate the parking situation.

“I am not in favor of this. I live right there and have a hard time finding a parking space as it is,” said Daniel Petzing, Club Street.

Resident Clare A. Moore said she had been blocked in by vehicles during the summer because “people don’t know where to park.”

“I would like to see development down there, but not this,” she said.

The developers, James M. and Carolyn J. Rossi, purchased the Club Street property two years ago for $139,000 and plan to expand and renovate the one-story bait shop into a three-story, mixed-use building with a $200,000 state Homes and Community Renewal grant.

The grant was secured earlier this year by the Cape Vincent Local Development Corp., which drafted a revitalization plan to make Club Street — an entrance into the United States for Canadian visitors using the ferry — more presentable and attractive to tourists.

But Club Street property owners, including Mr. Petzing and Patrick J. Wiley, owner of Captain Jack’s, argue the development plan is a “$200,000 mistake” that is in “gross violation” of local zoning laws.

The project calls for four residential units — three apartments on the second floor and one residence on the third, where the Rossis plan to live — which would require a minimum lot size of 3,000 square feet per residential unit, or 12,000 square feet combined.

The parcel size for the bait shop property, however, is only 3,380 square feet.

On the street level, two commercial spaces are planned but there are no minimum lot size zoning requirements for commercial units.

Still, the project is likely to move forward with the blessings of local officials, who believe the benefits of the much-needed development project on Club Street outweigh potential detriments to the surrounding area.

The village Zoning Board of Appeals granted a variance waiving the minimum lot size requirement and the project is pending a site plan review in front of the local Planning Board.

“It’s definitely an improvement to the building and the area,” said Michelle T. Oswald, a ZBA member and town councilwoman, adding the village and town governments are seeking money to add parking spaces.

A revitalization study on the Club Street area found the combination of ferry traffic with seasonal events “produces an influx of visitors to the area that exceeds the existing parking capacity and interferes with the traffic flow.”

But the study also points out there is a 0.85-acre plot nearby — owned by the town of Cape Vincent and located behind the Chamber of Commerce on North James Street — that can accommodate quite a few vehicles and is open for public parking.

“The property is currently zoned residential and used for public parking behind the chamber building. The existing parking lot is approximately 7,700 square feet and provides 20 parking spaces,” the study report reads.

Mr. Rossi said he and his wife had “fallen in love” with the area and want the redevelopment of the former bait store and ice cream parlor property to be “done right for everyone.”

The village Planning Board next meets June 18.

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