Mayor William Murphy is studying for a big history test. Sometime next month, he and the Village Board will be asked to decide the fate of the Dragon Inn, the fire-damaged building built by 19th century paper magnate William R. Sheffield on Route 9W near the S-curve.
The Historic Review Board won’t officially rule on the owner’s request to demolish the building until the end of the month, but the members aren’t waiting to make their opinions known.
“The board does not have a choice,” said Michael Sullivan Smith. “It’s not a matter of making up a mind. The law states that we must preserve all landmarks under our protection and put under our protection any landmark that is at risk. When something is historic we cannot just decide it no longer is.”
Board chair Richard Frisbie, in a Facebook post, suggested more people would support preservation if the proposal remained front and center going into the March village elections. “The historic designation is delaying the process long enough for a groundswell of public opinion to be heard,” he wrote. “Some time near the village elections the Historic Review Board will reach its decision. By then, you should have, too. Then it is up to you, the voters, to support the candidates who agree with you.”
None of this surprised Don Snyder, who is Dragon Inn owner Ching Ya Wu’s construction management consultant. “I absolutely did not expect to get a fair hearing from the review board,” he said. “When I faced the board back in October, when we first talked about demolishing the building, I received an email letter from Richard Frisbie saying that no one on the board thought it was a good idea.”
Snyder has not been as circumspect in his comments, saying that the Historic Review Board has “propagandized the Dragon Inn.”
So when the review board votes to deny the proposed demolition, it will be up to the Village Board to make the call. That’s why the mayor is prepping himself for a sit-down with the director of the Certified Local Government Program for the state Historic Preservation Office, who will be in the village this week to explain what village trustees can and cannot do when it comes to reviewing the proposal.
Responding to Frisbie’s post, Mayor William Murphy said, “Everyone has their opinion on the Cloverlea, and they are entitled to feel however they want, as I have my own opinion as well. I expect the Village Board as well as the Historic Review Board to make correct decisions in regards to this matter, based on overall input of the public and in accordance to the law.”
“We hope we’ll get a fair hearing from village trustees,” Snyder said, “and it will be voted up or voted down on its merits.”
The Historic Review Board declared the building historic in 2007. Snyder has said the property cannot be sold because no buyer wants to invest the money necessary to fix up the building.