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Preservation Hangs in the Balance in Scarsdale

26CushmanWhen all the members of the Committee for Historic Preservation resigned from the committee in November, 2017 saying that the current Village code did not allow them to prevent the demolition of any homes, we were surprised and hopeful. We were surprised because in our memory an entire committee had never made such a statement, and hopeful because we thought that this would compel the Village Board of Trustees to make some meaningful changes to the code. In fact, former members of the committee suggested some changes that would align with the historic preservation code in nearby towns and make it possible to save some of the historic homes in Scarsdale that are being razed at an alarming rate.

However, we're not sure what if any changes will be made at all.

The Village Board of Trustees has replaced all of the committee members, and the new committee chair, Lucas Meyer was quoted in the Scarsdale Inquirer saying that he believes that only "15 structures in the Village need to be preserved for posterity." Could this mean that almost all applications for demolition filed will be approved? We wondered if this was Meyer's personal point of view or a new standard for the committee? Either way, this interpretation of the code does not even align with the current village code. If the CHP simply approves all demolition applications, no one will need to appeal a decision to the Board of Trustees and the homes will be lost without any consideration.

We were also surprised that local architect Bana Choura was reassigned to the committee. She previously resigned after a conflict of interest as she works on designing the homes that are built on the properties where applications for teardowns are filed. Why couldn't the trustees find someone who has not previously had to step down from the committee... and someone from outside the Village?

We also wondered if the trustees would consider the recommendations from the prior members of the CHP for changes to Village Code that would allow at least some of our homes to be preserved.

And what about the Cultural Resource Survey Report of all of Scarsdale's properties done by architectural historian Andrew S. Dolkart and Li-Saltzman Architects in 2012? The study surveyed the "architectural fabric in order to identify buildings and areas of particular architectural or historical significance." They identified a list of the most significant individual buildings "ranging from colonial-era farmhouses, to mid-nineteenth century rural villas, to architecturally distinguished suburban homes from the early decades of the twentieth-century , to exceptional mid-century Modern houses. The report says, "We realized that what is so special about Scarsdale is the cohesive nature of the built fabric. While we continued to look at each building individually , we also looked to groups of buildings that give a distinctive character to the village. Thus, the survey has identified twelve "Study Areas," where groups of buildings of high quality and with architectural integrity relating to their original design, create cohesive neighborhood ensembles "20Mamaroneck

The report suggests both individual properties as well as historic districts for preservation. Would the trustees consider ways to recognize those properties and districts and incentivize preservation of the facades?

We wrote to the Mayor and several Village trustees with our questions and here is a response from Mayor Dan Hochvert:

1: Regarding the appointment of new committee members:

After the Village Board and Staff learned of resignations of the previous Committee for Historic Preservation (CHP), they recognized there were 3 applications for Certificates of Appropriateness scheduled for hearing on 12/26. A concern was that if the Village was not able to abide by its Code which requires hearings for such applications by the CHP to determine if the applicants' properties were historic, the applicants might seek judicial approval for demolition of the property. To prevent that outcome, volunteers who had previously served on the CHP were asked if they would temporarily serve while longer term volunteers were sought. The resultant CHP consists of some members with previous CHP experience and some members who have interest in historic properties.

2. Regarding the Chairman's view that only 15 properties in Scarsdale warrant preservation:

It is important to note that the Code gives each member of the CHP one vote and requires a minimum of four votes for a decision. New York State law also requires that if fewer than four members of the CHP vote either for or against the application for a C of A, it will be deemed a default denial and the applicant may appeal to the Village Board.

3. Regarding proposed changes to the preservation code:

The Village Board received recommendations from the members of the previous CHP and will schedule public discussion of them as soon as possible in the face of a busy budget development schedule.

(Photos are taken from the 2012 Cultural Resources Survey by Li-Saltzman Architects.)

Comments   

-12 #13 J Warner 2017-12-22 07:57
Quoting D. Windham:
Just keep letting the CNC peoduce rhese unvetted candudates and this is what you get. We will end up getting even more McMansions.


I object to any statement that the CNC offers unvetted candidates for Village Trustees and Mayor. As this is my third year as a member of the CNC, I assure you that every candidate proposed is thoroughly vetted. If you doubt the quality of the vetting process, I invite you to join the Scarsdale Forum Procedures Committee which proposes candidates for CNC and governs the CNC nominating process. In addition please run as a candidate for the CNC to participate in the vetting of the candidates. The non-partisan process is strengthened from people agreeing to take time out of their life to participate in the selection of our village governing body.
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+3 #12 Huh? 2017-12-21 15:10
Has anyone looked at the three properties up for review on the 26th? Two are from the 50's, and one from around 1938. Pretty sure the houses from the 50's are not historic in any way. So we are left with a rather nondescript home on Morris Lane you can't really see from the street. Historic?
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0 #11 Reality 2017-12-20 14:41
You need a tree permit to remove more than 3 trees a year from your property. That's hardly an imposition and one where the balance between a property owner's rights, and the benefit trees provide to all is MUCH more appropriate one than not letting a property owner maximize their lot's vale by limiting structure modification due to it being deemed of historical significance.

There is a reason that historical property is owned by government, and that history is stored in museums: to not burden the individual, compensation free, with preserving this status for others, particularly when it involves a home that was only deemed historic after they moved into it.

I'm all for historic preservation via the only truly fair litmus test: spending my money on it: money that can compensate individuals for the losses in profit that arise in having to preserve their property structures for the rest of us.

Everyone is really gung ho about such preservation until asked to shell out the dough, or face the burden in their own property structures being deemed unable to be renovated or rebuilt, in whole or in part, due to historical preservation reasons.

New mantra: "I am for Historic Preservation and am willing to pay into a fund to compensate individual 10583 property owners adversely affected by my preferences."

Don't come here pro preservation if you're not willing to say the above and mean it.



Until such time, new, energy efficient homes, albeit tasteful ones with BAR approval, properly balances individual and public rights.
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+5 #10 Fiddler on the Roof 2017-12-19 17:17
Jonathan Lerner - Associate Village Historian, you are incorrect. The Village calendar states that December 26, 2017 is indeed the date of the meeting of the newly staffed Committee for Historic Destruction meeting at Village Hall. The Grinch will preside. Merry Christmas and watch out for the bulldozers stationed right outside Village Hall.
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+10 #9 M. Randall 2017-12-19 13:39
What we need is stricter zoning restrictions, particularly for our smaller lots. If the amount of new SF that is allowed is limited it will be less economical to build new and less houses will be purchased by builders.
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+11 #8 Note 2017-12-19 10:16
We shouldn’t conflate two rather separate issues: (1) whether certain homes should be preserved and (2) whether we want to allow very large homes on small plots of land. People have different views in each.
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-10 #7 @D. Windham 2017-12-18 21:08
You don't like McMansions, don't buy one. Also feel free to encourage the BAR to set a no-McMansion policy, whatever that may be. But you can't take away people's property rights based on your view of McMansions. Just sayin'
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0 #6 One view 2017-12-18 20:10
Property rights are important. For better or worse, houses don’t last forever, and the Scarsdale landscape will inevitably change over time.
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+1 #5 really? 2017-12-18 15:57
'Preservationis ts' may mean well but that does not excuse the arrogance implicit in believing that THEIR opinions or tastes in housing should be foisted upon others - never mind the ease with which they would trample individual property rights. It's a house. It belongs to someone else. Sure, we all have an interest in regulating toward some broad architectural standard but to say we cannot demolish structures because...we find old homes to be quaint...does that seem fair?
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+7 #4 D. Windham 2017-12-18 15:17
Just keep letting the CNC peoduce rhese unvetted candudates and this is what you get. We will end up getting even more McMansions.
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