MALONE — It may be too late, but a Town of Malone man wants a zoning variance revoked that was granted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Mark Gonyea said he is not against the church or its membership.But he is opposed to the fact that a prime piece of real estate on the corner of U.S Route 11 and Brainardsville Road will be tax exempt forever if the group builds a new church on the property.The Latter-day Saints plans to spend $800,000 on construction of the Malone Ward Meetinghouse, a 4,400-square-foot church on the 1.87 acres of land in question.The property is zoned for countryside and commercial use, but the church sought relief through the town's Board of Variance and Appeals on Jan. 31.Gonyea said he attended that meeting and that board members approved the variance with little discussion or consideration of the tax ramifications on other town residents."The town ordinance says no churches in commercial zones," Gonyea said. "This is really wrong."They are going to build a half-million-dollar church, and that half-million dollars will be added to the assessment that will be shouldered by the rest of the taxpayers."But Frank Purdy, who chaired the Variance Board meeting on that evening, said plenty of discussion took place and that none of the members felt there was anything wrong with granting the request."For years, when a business moves into town, they always seem to go to the west side of town, where Wal-Mart is and the rest of the commercial businesses, not the east end," he said."We discussed it and felt it will be years, if ever, that the east end would become commercialized," Purdy said, so the variance was awarded.He said the land was sitting vacant and not generating much in property tax, so seeing the church develop it into tax-exempt property "wouldn't really affect the tax base anyway."Town Attorney Lillian Anderson-Duffy said she thought an appeal to the Variance Board's action had to be made within 30 days.Because the meeting was held the last day of January and the meeting minutes would have been filed a short time later, it may be too late to stop the project from proceeding.She was to seek clarification from the New York State Association of Towns and report back to the Town Council.Gonyea said the entire issue brings to light the need for less tax-exempt property within the town and village because it adds to the burden of the rest of the municipality's taxpayers.
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