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Church seeks variances for former Barre Grange to make site more attractive for reuse

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2018 at 10:29 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: David Snell, owner of Snell Realtors in Albion, urges the Orleans County Planning Board to support setback variances for the former Barre Grange. Without the variances, Snell said the building is unlikely to find a new use.

ALBION – The former Barre Grange doesn’t have much space for vehicles to park. That makes it difficult for the building to find a new use, even if it’s just for storage, Orleans County Panning Board members were told on Thursday.

The building at the corner of Route 98 and Maple Street in Barre is owned by the Barre Presbyterian Church. The church wants to sell the former grange, but it will be a tough sell without the variances.

The Barre ordinance requires 15 feet for side setbacks but the former grange only has 1 foot for a setback. The ordinance also requires a minimum lot width of 200 feet, but the old grange only has 53 feet.

The Orleans County Planning Board voted against the variances on Thursday in an advisory recommendation to the Town of Barre. The County Planning Board said allowing such substantial variances would undermine Barre’s zoning regulations.

Peter Snell, owner of Snell Realtors in Albion, said the board should consider the future of the building without variances.

“What’s the alternative?” Snell asked the board. “If you can’t use it, who will level it? The congregation? It would be nice instead if it was collecting taxes.”

Snell said there was a potential buyer interested in the building for storage.

The lack of a setback from the building to the property line leaves no potential for a septic system, severely limiting future options at the site. But Snell said a storage business would be ideal, not requiring septic. Snell said he thinks there is room on the site for holding tanks.

Brian Napoli, the County Planning Board chairman, said the board makes recommendations based on the town ordinances. He suggested Barre revise its ordinance for the hamlet if it wants to facilitate reuse of the former grange.

Gary Daum, another board member, said the grange is one of the few buildings left in Barre’s hamlet that hasn’t been changed over the years. He thinks it’s an important building historically for the community.

Sarah Gatti, a planner for the county, said the variances could be denied but that doesn’t seal the building’s fate. Uses for the site could still be considered on a case by case basis and the town could approve them.

“It’s not a lost cause,” she said.

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