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Massena grants Frenchie’s final expansion approval


MASSENA — Frenchie’s Chevrolet may finish its expansion of its East Orvis Street dealership and service center.

The village Board of Trustees voted 5-0 Tuesday night to approve a 32.5-foot rezoning of the back of four properties on Burney Avenue. Frenchie’s needed the change to finish a driveway along the rear of those properties.

The meeting room in Town Hall was packed and nearly standing-room-only for the rezoning public hearing; the crowd overflowed into the hallway outside.

Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld said his count indicated the room exceeded its capacity of 99.

Officials issued a stop-work order in July on the East Orvis Street project because a portion of the $1.4 million expansion falls within 30 feet of neighboring homes on Burney Avenue.

Since then, code enforcement officer Gregory C. Fregoe rescinded the original permit covering the entire project, which he said he issued in error, and broke the expansion into several different pieces. All of the pieces, except the construction of a driveway along the building’s west side, had been approved by either the village’s Planning Board or its Zoning Board of Appeals.

A new design will make Frenchie’s service area a drive-thru facility. Customers will drive into the building and deliver their car to a technician. When the car is ready, the owner will exit the other side of the building on a driveway along the rear of properties on Burney Avenue, Frenchie’s attorney Daniel S. Pease said previously.

Royal C. “Frenchie” Coupal pursued rezoning of a portion of his four Burney Avenue rental properties in order to construct the driveway. That driveway was the sticking point between Frenchie’s, which said it was necessary to make the expansion functional, and a handful of Burney Avenue neighbors who said the project comes too close to their property and would destroy the neighborhood’s quality of life.

Lois Guay has lived in 9 Burney Ave., next to the properties Mr. Coupal has purchased over the last several years, for nearly 60 years. Neither she nor her companion, Mary Moran, plans to move anytime soon, Ms. Moran said previously.

It was Frenchie’s employees and other supporters who packed Tuesday night’s meeting. Mr. Pease asked attendees to raise their hands if they supported the project, and the vast majority in the room did. He then asked who was opposed to the project and about a half dozen people raised their hands.

“It’s an integral component of the expansion plans for Frenchie’s,” Mr. Pease said. “It’ll open up the door to saving a number of jobs.”

St. Lawrence County Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett, Gouverneur Mayor Ronald P. McDougall, former Massena Mayor Charles R. Boots, Frenchie’s employees and General Manager Scott Coupal all spoke in favor of the project

Larry Smith, who lives across from Ms. Moran at 10 Burney Ave., was among those who spoke against the project.

He envisioned Frenchie’s eventually occupying that entire section of Massena. He said he does not need any nightlights in his house because Frenchie’s already illuminates his property.

“Where’s it going to go next?” he asked. “Is it going to go to Grove Street? Is it going to go to Parker Avenue?”

Following the meeting, Mr. Coupal said he had asked his staff to show up at Tuesday’s meeting, but “the overall support was just staggering.”

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