Canton church group to meet with Zoning Board of Appeals over use of the former Club building
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - 2:40 pm

By ADAM ATKINSON
North Country This Week

CANTON – The Canton branch of the Christian Fellowship Center will soon have an answer on whether they will be allowed to operate a church at the former Club building at 25 Court St.

The Canton Village Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a public hearing Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m. in the courtroom of the municipal building, 60 Main St., to receive public comment on the issue.

Jamie Sinclair, the Canton pastor of Christian Fellowship Centers of New York Inc. has applied for a use variance on behalf of Custmo, the holding company that owns the building.

The village planning board recently referred the church’s initial application for planning permission to village code enforcement officer Jeffrey Murray. That board had determined that village code rules governing the C-1 Commericial District where the building is located do not allow for churches to operate in that particular zone.

Murray subsequently denied code permission to the church. Sinclair and the CFC were directed to the Zoning Board of Appeals to interpret the village code as it relates to the use of the property as a church in the C-1 District.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will consider the CFC application at its meeting immediately following the public hearing.

The CFC Canton branch, which has been meeting at the Best Western University Inn, is trying to buy The Club building, 25 Court St., for use as its newest building to serve over 100 congregants.

The building is being sold for $650,000 and is listed at MLS# 38206 on www.slcmls.com.

Some opposition has been voiced at village planning board meetings, based on the building’s long history as restaurant, and concern the acquisition would take it off the tax rolls.

The building was built in 1880 as a gentlemen’s club, at one time featured a mahogany bar and bowling alley, and has been home of several popular restaurants and bars over the years including The Glass Onion and The Elegant Frog

The Club closed in July and the building has been for sale since.

The building is assessed at $250,000, and the half-acre lot it sits on assessed at $40,000.

The village code may already allow for the CFC to acquire the building and operate there under the C1 Commercial District zone rules.

In a letter to the editor published in the Oct. 24th edition of North Country This Week, St. Lawrence University economics professor Robert A. Blewett writes that under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act which “protects religious institutions from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use regulations” the village is required to allow the CFC to operate in the C-1 District.

Blewett writes that the village would violate federal law and First Amendment rights if they denied the church permission to operate their church there.

Blewett also writes that the existing C-1 zone rules “may implicitly allow churches.”

His letter can be read online here.