The Village Board decided last week to hold off on its plan to dissolve the Historic Review Board following public opposition at the Dec. 1 hearing.
The mayor and trustees said a combined planning commission composed of members of the Planning and Historic Review boards would be more efficient, and several members of the Review Board supported the proposal.
But public opinion was against it. The question of efficiency was not part of the debate. Instead, it came down to the perception that the village was seeking to make the oversight process easier for businesses following complaints of excessive demands by the Review Board. Some agreed, but it seemed the majority felt the measure would either weaken historic preservation or, if not, was at the very least too hasty — surely the issues surrounding Review Board/business relations could be addressed without scrapping the board, suggested more than one speaker.
The village’s proposal also includes revisions to the zoning map whose main purpose is to resolve a dispute over whether a Partition St. home slated for demolition was part of the historic district. The Village Board says no, the Review Board, yes.
Even if the Village Board moves forward with the revised map, as it appears it will, the Review Board’s new lease on life means the home (and its twin to the south) could quickly be declared historic anyway. The Review Board has the ability to designate properties, as it recently did with the 19th-century mansion Clovelea (the Dragon Inn).
Review Board Chair Richard Frisbie said as much when, after expressing approval for the trustees’ plan to resolve confusion over the zoning map, added, “[I’d] rather it didn’t reduce the historic district [by removing the two homes], but we can always add what we want in the future.”
The Village Board is also awaiting recommendations on the proposal from the village Planning Board. A vote will not come before Jan. 19.
The issue with the maps is as follows: Review Board members say the map in official use by it and other boards for years includes both 40 and 42 Partition St. Village Code Enforcement Officer Eyal Saad, tasked with resolving the issue several months ago, said that while there are several versions of the village zoning map, there is only one official map filed with the state, and that map does not include the Partition St. homes.
Sawyer Savings Bank, which has a branch on the Market St. side of the block, had previously planned to purchase 40 Partition St. and demolish it to make room for a parking lot and drive-through ATM. The bank later withdrew the proposal, citing public opposition. Mayor William Murphy and homeowner John Amodio both blamed the Review Board for derailing the plan.
Disagreements over the proposed map persisted at the Dec. 15 meeting. Review Board member David Minch addressed the board, saying the village’s proposed zoning map was incorrect and should include the two Partition St. homes. “There is no ambiguity,” he said.
The mayor said the Review Board has interpreted the borders of the historic districts differently in different cases. “You can’t have it both ways,” Murphy said.
“We’re just trying to make three maps into one,” said Trustee Don Hackett.
“We have three maps and no one knows which one to use,” said Trustee Terry Parisian.
Some residents have interpreted the dispute as historic preservationists fighting the good fight against a Village Board representing the short-term economic interests of businesses. Trustee Vincent Buono said that is not the case.
“For as long as I’m on this board we will protect the historic district,” he said. “We’re talking about a couple of little houses that were never in the historic district.”