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Winthrop man torn between two towns in garage snafu

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BRASHER FALLS — Jeffrey A. Liberty thought he had all his paperwork in order when he applied for and was granted a variance to build a detached garage less than 15 feet from the property line.

But then he discovered that the variance, which he had applied for through the town of Stockholm, wasn’t valid because, while his house is in the town of Stockholm, the garage is in the town of Brasher.

Mr. Liberty will be able to continue his work, however, after receiving approval last week from the Brasher Zoning Board of Appeals.

Mr. Liberty told Brasher ZBA members that he had a garage that was “a little dilapidated,” and he decided to tear it down and rebuild it. He contacted Stockholm Code Enforcement Officer Robert Griffith, who recommended he go through the Stockholm Planning Board for approval.

“He recommended for safety’s sake to go to the Planning Board,” he said.

A map of the property was drawn up and sent to the St. Lawrence County Planning Board, which reviewed it and returned it to Stockholm for action. A meeting was set up and neighbors were notified, but Mr. Liberty said there were no problems.

At least not until he was contacted by Brasher Code Enforcement Officer Robert W. Forbes about three-quarters of the way through the project to tell him that the garage was at least partially in the town of Brasher.

“At that time Bob wanted a building permit. I requested a refund from Stockholm and sent the payment to Brasher,” Mr. Liberty said.

“The building was torn down in Brasher. I issued a demolition permit. The whole building is in Brasher,” Mr. Forbes said.

He told ZBA members that, during a meeting between Stockholm Town Supervisor Clark S. Decker and Brasher Town Supervisor M. James Dawson, it was agreed that the garage was not in the town of Stockholm, but in the town of Brasher.

That led to Mr. Liberty’s appearance before the Brasher Zoning Board of Appeals last week. Board Chairman Stacy J. Dutch said the newly built garage is 8 feet from the property line, and the town’s zoning regulations specify a distance of 15 feet.

Mr. Liberty said his home is next to the Tri-Town Community Center, and the Brasher-Stockholm Recreation Commission had drafted a letter indicating it had no problem with the garage being closer to the lot line.

“I can vouch for that. I’m on the recreation board,” Brasher Deputy Supervisor William D. Demo told ZBA members.

Mr. Dutch asked Mr. Liberty if he planned to remove a hedgerow that separated his property from the arena, and Mr. Liberty said he intended to keep it there.

“The hedgerow is creating a natural divider between the arena property and his. If that’s going to be left there, great. It’s a nice natural boundary between the two” properties, Mr. Dutch said.

The variance, which was approved unanimously, specifies that Mr. Liberty cannot build closer than 8 feet to the property line.

Board members also approved a variance for Kiel A. Fukes and Michael Bell to operate an ATV and snowmobile parts and repair shop on their property.

“The Planning Board gave you the go-ahead on everything with one stipulation,” that they receive a variance because the frontage was required to be 75 feet under the town’s zoning code, but was only 50 feet, according to Mr. Dutch. “They weren’t asking you to do anything else.”

The business is in a former gas station across the road from the Tri-Town Community Center.

“That was a garage for many years,” Mr. Dutch said.

Board member Keitha Arquiette said her only concern was that the work would not bother the neighbors.

“I think our only concern was that the building was insulated good because of the houses next to it. My main concern was that you wouldn’t bother any of the neighbors at 11 or 12. I know you’re going to be respectful enough to use common sense on it,” she said.

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