Canton village and town, Rensselaer Falls trustees approve comprehensive plan; Falls residents concerned about zoning issue
Tuesday, October 8, 2019 - 1:43 am

By ADAM ATKINSON
North Country This Week

RENSSELAER FALLS — The Canton Comprehensive Plan (CCP) was unanimously approved by the village boards of Rensselaer Falls and Canton and the Canton town board at a joint meeting Monday, Oct. 8.

The CCP will function as a general blueprint for future development strategies in the municipalities.

Approval of the CCP came only after more discussion and concerns voiced by village residents about the plan’s inclusion of a residential section of West Front Street in a waterfront overlay district. The district could allow future commercial developments there, something village residents who live along the route have expressed concern about at earlier public hearings on the issue.

At the meeting Monday night, the boards passed a measure adding additional language and a redefined map to the Comprehensive Plan which directs review and oversight on any proposal for commercial developments in the district.

The language, added on page 7-3 of the plan, states “When and if development is considered in the Waterfront Overlay District, an added layer of review will be required, including site plan review, special use permit, and St. Lawrence County Planning Office guidance to ensure compatibility with underlying allowed uses and minimize impacts on adjacent properties.”

Some village residents attending the meeting were not assuaged by the language added by the boards to the CCP.

“I want to make sure I am included in discussion on what’s going to be done to this property (waterfront overlay district). And I have to say that when I bought the house I moved onto a quiet, natural road,” said Mary LaMere who lives on West Front Street.

“I don’t want snowmobiles, and I’ve said that I don’t feel that canoeing and kayaking is safe for this river. And, it seems that the whole village of Rensselaer Falls has thought of these things that are going to get people to Rensselaer Falls that aren’t necessarily going to work out well,” LaMere said.

LaMere voiced concern that property around her lot could be rezoned without her knowing.

“Are these things going to be discussed? Are the people in Rensselaer Falls going to have a say? Or are they going to be decided by a few people?” LaMere said.

David Duff, a member of the St. Lawrence County Planning Board, asked if the boards had a sense of what the village residents who live in the West Front Street area feel about including the neighborhood in the district.

“The waterfront overlay district doesn’t necessarily mean its deemed commercial right away,” said Rensselaer Falls Mayor Michael Hammond. “To my knowledge it has to be built and worked in tandem with the county, and hopefully the town, to decide what that mixed use is going to be.”

Hammond said he had a good sense of the residents’ concerns. “I’m hearing it loud and clear. So that’s why we would have to work with the town and hope there is a lot of public input into how the waterfront overlay district could potentially be (planned),” Hammond said.

“So if nobody on West Front Street is for the commercial overlay, why isn’t it just taken out of there?” asked Phil Burnett, a West Front Street home owner, residing outside the village limits. “If no resident on that street is for it, why is it still being considered?”

“You have public hearings and people are expressing their opinions but it doesn’t seem to make a difference going forward with this waterfront overlay,” said property owner Susan Huntley. “If the majority of people on that street are against it, then why isn’t it being taken out?”

Mayor Hammond said the new language was added to include an oversight requirement over any development in the waterfront overlay district to address concerns that were voiced at public hearings on the matter.

Hammond said M.J. Engineering & Land Surveying of Clifton Park and the CCP committee that worked on the 134-page document outlined all riverfront properties as part of the overlay district to facilitate future conversations on how to develop those areas.

Work on the Comprehensive Plan began in the fall of 2017.

Visit https://cantonnycomprehensiveplan.com for more information on the plan. A draft can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2LHLuw0.

Copies are also available for public review in the offices of the clerks at the Canton Municipal Building, 60 Main St., Canton; the Rensselaer Falls Municipal Office, 212 Rensselaer St., Rensselaer Falls; and the Canton Free Library, 8 Park St.