Proposed Canton halfway house granted special-use permit to use rectory

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CANTON — A proposed halfway house for women recovering from alcohol and drug abuse passed another hurdle Tuesday evening.

The village Planning Board unanimously agreed to grant a special-use permit that allows New Hope Transformation Ministries Inc., Potsdam, to open a home in the Grace Episcopal Rectory at 11 E. Main St. Tenants would include up to six women in recovery who would be supervised by one house mother.

The decision came following a 20-minute discussion that centered on conditions Planning Board members want the project to meet in order to move forward.

About 30 people, mostly supporters, attended the meeting, which was moved to the basement of the municipal building where more room is available.

“I’m very happy,” said Carolyn White, chairwoman of New Hope. “We now have to do our foundation work to raise the startup funds we need. “

Planning Board members agreed to a suggestion by member John Hill, who said the permit should be granted on the condition that the project is reviewed by the Planning Board six months after the first tenant moves into the home.

If the facility is running well, the permit will continue and the home can continue to operate, he said.

“My idea is that the applicant come back in and make a report on how their first six months went,” Mr. Hill said. “At the same time, any neighbor can come in and make any statement they wish, just so everyone is on the same page.”

Chairman Barry Walch said the Planning Board can also revoke the special use permit if it’s determined that the halfway house begins to violate the character of the neighborhood. The parcel is in a Business-1 district and there are other multifamily homes nearby as well as some single-family homes. Special-use permits are required for group dwellings, including boarding houses.

“The Planning Board has the right to say ‘This doesn’t work,’” Mr. Walch said.

Planning Board member Charles Rouse said he wants the facility to meet all conditions recommended by the St. Lawrence County Planning Department staff, including installation of a privacy fence and downcast lighting. Other concerns discussed by the Planning Board during the past several months should also be included, he said.

An updated survey has been completed, as recommended, and there is no plan to install a sign.

John Ault, a New Hope member, said he’s confident the halfway house will meet the criteria set forth by the Planning Board.

“We have every reason to believe we’ll measure up to the standard the Planning Board is looking for,” he said.

New Hope was also asked to submit an updated application to Code Enforcement Officer Jeffrey Murray.

Mr. Ault said approximately $7,000 is needed for startup costs, plus a van to transport women to appointments.

The Planning Board has been reviewing the project for more than a year and in April turned down the request for a special-use permit because the two-story home did not meet setback distance and area use requirements for a group dwelling. In May, the village Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously voted to grant an area variance requested by New Hope Transformation Ministries.

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