Opinion: Canton zoning seems inconsistent and unfair, says Canton man
I have been watching with interest as the Village of Canton is trying to hold the Christian Fellowship Center to a higher standard than has been utilized on Court Street in the past.
As recently as six years ago Catholic masses were being held in the Thomas More Newman Center at 33 Court Street. The Newman Center was not a “church” in the true meaning of the word, but a central location where students from SUNY Canton and SLU as well as local townspeople gathered and one of the weekly events that took place there was the Catholic Mass. It was within the C-1 zoning district of the Village of Canton. I do not know if the Newman Center was listed as a church or not in 2006 when they updated the zoning districts and grandfathered various churches which were not in the appropriate zoning districts.When the Newman Center was sold to the St. Lawrence Federal Credit Union, whether it was a church or not became a moot point. I bring this up now wondering how the conversation would be going now if the Newman Center was still having weekly Mass and the Christian Fellowship was being denied the right to have weekly services and they were both within a C-1 designated zone. Today I paced off the distance from the front door of the Club to where the door on the south end of the Newman Center used to be and it figured out to be about sixty feet. If the Thomas More Newman Center was still in operation, we would have two worship sites sixty feet apart with one OK in a C-1 zone and the other one not OK. Seems inconsistent and unfair to me.
An argument against having a church at 25 Court Street is that it would take the property off the tax rolls. Many people would rather see the Club property remain an operating restaurant. The Club was up for sale for quite a period of time prior to closing its doors for good. No one came forward to purchase it as a restaurant. Wanting it to remain a restaurant and it remaining a restaurant is decided by many factors which are beyond the scope of this letter.
Rather than fighting this issue in court and racking up large court fees on both sides where no one really wins except for the lawyers, I encourage the Village of Canton to issue a variance and allow the Christian Fellowship to open as a church at 25 Court Street.