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Mission of Hope Zoning Application in Limbo

By John T. Ryan

Peru – The North Country Mission of Hope’s non-conforming use application for the former K of C Hall/Fitness Center at 3452 Route 22 was not approved by the Peru Zoning Board of Appeals at its Wednesday, April 19th meeting. Mission of Hope Board President Sally Kokes told the Peru Gazette, “It came down to an interpretation of the law. We’re not giving up because we really need the building. I was surprised. Everyone seemed to be in favor of it.”

Board Chairman Jim Falvo told the Peru Gazette, “I voted no based on Section 502 of the Zoning Law (Titled “Termination”) which states that when a nonconforming use has been discontinued for more than one year, it cannot be reestablished. I advised the Mission of Hope representatives to apply for a use variance.”

Board member Robin Bashaw disagrees stating, “The Mission of Hope applied under Section 503 (Titled Change to Another Nonconforming Use), not Section 502. Section 503 states that a nonconforming use may be changed to another nonconforming use…” Bashaw is of the opinion that the building did not lose its nonconforming use status simply because it has been vacant for more than one year. He pointed out that neither the word “termination” or the word “discontinued” is defined in Peru’s zoning ordinance and that his research has satisfied him that the building’s status as a conforming use was not terminated.

The Zoning Board currently consists of six members*, meaning four affirmative votes are required for approval of an action. Members Dwane Bast and Rob Bashaw voted yes. Chairman James Falvo voted no. Members Steve LaBounty and Tom Fusco had not made a decision; therefore, they abstained. Member Tim St. Pierre was not present.

Peru Zoning Attorney Matt Favro was not present at Wednesday’s meeting. Over the next few days he will listen to a tape recording of the proceedings and will hopefully be ready to state his findings at the Zoning Board’s May 17th meeting.

* The Zoning Board is in the process of being reduced from 7 to 5 members. When the senior member’s term expires, his position will be filled.

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