Saugerties historic oversight shakeup debated

Penelope Milford said the village shouldn’t do anything that might detract from its historic character, which she called “our brand” (photo by Robert Ford)

Penelope Milford said the village shouldn’t do anything that might detract from its historic character, which she called “our brand” (photo by Robert Ford)

  • Some fear the return to the bad old days, adult theaters and boarded up buildings
  • Others portray Review Board as obstructionist, needlessly spoiling innocent business deals
  • Homeowner says board’s intervention made selling his house impossible; tells village to buy it
  • Review Board member charges merger won’t save time or money; mayor disagrees
  • Village Board will consider input and vote Dec. 15 or in January

 

More than 40 residents attended a Dec. 1 hearing on a proposal to merge the village Historic Review and Planning boards and revise the village zoning map.

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Mayor William Murphy said a combined planning commission could enforce the preservation ordinance as effectively as a separate board while reducing the time and fees of the review process for applicants.

At the hearing, many speakers opposed the proposal, interpreting the change as a return to the time, prior to the mid-1980s, when the village did not enforce historic preservation standards. “Let’s not return to the ‘wild west’ Saugerties,” said resident Josepha Gutelius.

Several attributed the economic resurgence of the formerly run-down village business district to the foresight shown by early preservation efforts.

Marc Propper, owner of Miss Lucy’s Kitchen and ‘Cue, has appeared before the Review Board numerous times. He said the board can be demanding, “but in the end we need historic protection. Give the board another chance.”

Resident Penelope Milford said, “The village’s historic district is our brand. We’re a destination.”

Several current members of the Review Board spoke. David Minch said the merger should not be presented as saving time and money because few applicants appear before both the Planning and Review boards. Richard Frisbie said statements by village officials that no grants had been obtained through the village’s membership in the Certified Local Government program, which it might lose if it dissolves its Review Board, were false; one grant was obtained, which helped to provide more detailed guidelines for what would be permitted in historic districts.

Others supported the merger. Brandon Amodio, owner of the recently renovated Mirabellas restaurant, described his frustration with the Review Board.

“It’s been almost impossible to do all of the things the board has wanted me to do,” Amodio said. “The board goes round and round… my project became their project, telling me what their idea for the building was rather than what my idea was.”

 

How it used to be

Minch spoke about the village prior to the establishment of the historic district and Review Board in 1985.

“Back then, the movie theater [Orpheum] was an adult theater, and the Flamingo [one of the night spots in the village] was topless,” Minch said.

Saugerties was a wreck in the 1970s, said Josepha Gutelius.

“IBM and Phillips were providing jobs, good-paying jobs to thousands of people, but there were plenty of empty buildings falling apart. But a handful of visionaries said, ‘maybe these buildings shouldn’t be torn down.’

“Slowly pioneers began to buy the rundown buildings and renovate and restore the old buildings, and now it’s these buildings that people come to the village to see,” Gutelius said.

 

Defiance urged

Susan Puretz urged trustees to defy the mayor and vote against the merger. She also called Murphy a “dictator” who is trying to force the measure through.

“We need to safeguard the historic legacy of the village,” she said.

Murphy shot back that he’s not the one that brought the new law; it was two trustees, Patrick Landewe and Terry Parisian.