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LeRay may ease zoning to encourage business

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To attract more commercial developers to LeRay, the Town Council will consider scrapping a zoning law that prohibits commercial development on private roads.

LeRay board members discussed a recommendation Thursday made by developer Michael L. Lundy, owner of Lundy Development and Property Management in Carthage, to ax the law, which doesn’t allow the creation of subdivisions for commercial entities on private roads. In addition, Mr. Lundy has requested the board revise the town’s setback requirements for private roads by dropping the amount of frontage separation needed between buildings and roads from 200 feet to 150 feet. The board plans to decide on the plan at its meeting Jan. 10.

Mr. Lundy said Friday that LeRay’s law cramps the establishment of commercial sites by mandating developers turn roads over to the town to maintain, according to its specifications. If the law is revised, he said, it would enable him to build on commercial property he owns off Route 11 using private roads, rather than dedicating them to the town to maintain. According to a plan approved by the LeRay board in July, Mr. Lundy plans to build a quarter-mile loop off Route 11 south of the Fort Drum exit. He originally had planned to build and dedicate the road at the site — across from Davidson Auto Group and next to Freedom Plaza on the west side of Route 11 — to the town but now hopes to build a private road, which would be allowed if LeRay approves his proposal.

“In LeRay, Route 11 is a divided highway. And the only way you can get good access is at a light,” Mr. Lundy said. “The state Department of Transportation doesn’t want all these little driveways popping up on north- and southbound lanes, so the best way to do it is to build (private) arterial roads off Route 11. It will allow projects to have better traffic flow, because traffic will be coming in and out of an arterial road. That way the town isn’t burdened with taking care of the arterial roads and can allow them to be developed.”

Mr. Lundy said the town of Watertown amended its law that prohibited commercial subdivisions from being established off private roads about a year ago. Several commercial development sites off Arsenal Street linked by arterial roads have been established as a result. Towne Center Drive — a private road off Arsenal Street that provides access to an array of retailers — is an example of such an arrangement. Mr. Lundy’s commercial and retail stores at the Washington Summit medical and professional campus along outer Washington Street also are linked by an arterial road.

“If you look at the arterial roads that go through the property, it allows access to all of these buildings,” he said, “whether it’s a strip plaza or standalone store. Otherwise, the developer would have had to talk the town into maintaining the road. Sometimes the town doesn’t want to be burdened with the obligation of maintenance.”

On the other hand, the LeRay board is concerned about unintended implications the move could have. The 150-foot setback requirement, for example, would apply to all private property bordering Route 11.

“I certainly think that if you allow 150 feet for one project, then you have to do it for all of them,” Supervisor Ronald C. Taylor said. But “it’s an advantage for the developer if they can save money by not building roads according to town specifications. But if you have a developer that goes in and builds three to four things and gets into financial trouble,” the town has to take over the road.

Mr. Taylor also said that in some areas along Route 11, arterial roads are needed because of congested traffic on the subdivided highway.

The town of LeRay’s zoning law is more restrictive than those of surrounding towns, said Steven T. Harter, administrative clerk to the LeRay supervisor.

“The question is whether we want to relax our standard or not,” he said. “Everyone agrees (Mr. Lundy’s) property makes a nice setting for commercial development, and it’s zoned commercial. But the town has also seen private developments that were on private roads and went bust, and everyone looks at the town to take it over, but it wasn’t built to our standards.”

The town has prevented such situations, Mr. Harter said, by ensuring it always takes ownership of private roads from developers. “The question is if it costs the town more to do this in the long run by creating problems for businesses,” he said.

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