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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 28, 2010

Tied by the code
Cancer case points to need for updated law

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — James Lynch has Stage 2 cancer, but he may live longer than two years.

That’s the maximum amount of time that his grown son, Daniel, will likely be able to stay near his home, according to the town’s current zoning law.

Daniel Lynch moved back to the family’s small home to care for his father during the lengthy treatments.  James Lynch, who works in construction, turned the second floor of a storage structure on his property into a living space for his son — a violation of the town’s zoning code, which specifies that no more than one dwelling is allowed on a parcel.

The Lynches’ situation exemplifies problems in the zoning code, which the town plans to address.  Supervisor Thomas Dolin guessed that the town board would begin review of the law in the spring and will ask Charles Voss, the new chairman of the planning board, and Paul Cantlin, the town’s long-time building inspector, to come up with lists of the 10 areas of the current law with the most problems.  The law is a product of the 1950s, Dolin said, and it needs to be updated for the 21st Century.

Dolin named broader allowances for home offices and accessory apartments, commonly called mother-in-law apartments, as things that should be allowed for in the amended law.  Of the couples who typically move to New Scotland, one of the pair usually works from home, Dolin said.

“We should try to accommodate these things, without imposing on the neighbors,” Dolin said of accessory apartments.  “I think it can be accommodated without a lot of complaints.”  Neighbors of James Lynch brought the violation to the town’s attention.

Including that type of use would allow for Daniel Lynch to stay in an apartment on his father’s property for however long he is required.  Their property is within a residential hamlet zone, which “is for residential-type uses where higher densities of development are compatible with the existing character of the neighborhood,” the town’s zoning law says.

Joseph Catalano, the Lynches’ lawyer, asked the zoning board, first, to overturn the building department’s decision, and, if not, to grant a use variance for a second dwelling on the parcel.  Catalano also included, as an alternative option, a request for temporary use, which the zoning board can permit for a year, with the option to renew it once for a second year.

Jeffrey Baker, attorney to the zoning board, suggested that Catalano pursue the temporary use permit.  A use variance is very hard to get, Baker explained yesterday.  “They’re intentionally hard to get,” he said.  The board could approve a temporary use permit and then the town could “clean up the zoning law,” he said.

“Sometimes these things start off well… then it loses its momentum,” Catalano said when asked if he would consider the advice, assuming the town would amend its law within two years.  “It’s something you can never count on.”

Other business

In other business at its Jan. 26 meeting, the zoning board:

— Voted, 4 to 0, to grant an area variance to Marcia Kindlon for relief from side-yard setback requirements to allow for an addition to her New Salem home; and

— Heard from Roselyn Robinson who is seeking a variance that would allow her to sell a parcel of land that abuts the property on which she built her house, the way she had intended when she bought the two plots in 1987, although she was under the impression at the time that each piece needed 133 feet of road frontage.  Current law dictates that each piece have 140 feet of road frontage and her request is that one piece be allowed to have a width of 133.33 feet and the other have a width of 133.34 feet.

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