Sunday, Apr 21st

Trustees Consider Changes to Historic Preservation Law

marxThe Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation presented their report on proposed changes to the Village Historic Preservation laws to a joint meeting of the Trustees Law and Land Use Committees on Wednesday night November 3rd.

Former Mayor Noreen Fisher headed up the ad hoc committee that was established earlier this year to determine how the Village might safeguard historic homes, and Scarsdale sites from demolition. Membership of the committee included Fisher, Thomas Giordano, David Karp, Lucas Meyer, Carl Pforzheimer, Emily Sherwood, Terry Singer, Eda Newhouse and Eric Rothschild.

They committee met six times to:

  • Determine the efficacy of the existing law
  • Consider amendments to the law proposed by the Committee on Historic Preservation (CHP)
  • Examine criteria currently used in deciding on proposed demolitions
  • Consider the pre-designation of properties and districts as historic
  • Set standards for the regulation and maintenance or improvement of designated landmarks or districts

Fisher gave the Trustees a recap of the work of the Ad Hoc committee and explained that they had researched the codes of many neighboring towns and villages to see how they work and determine what has proven to be effective in identifying and protecting historic buildings and sites.

In addition, they looked back at the activity of the current Scarsdale Committee for Historic Preservation and found that in the past three years, though 57 buildings were considered, only one was determined to have historic significance under the current code. They found that the current code only provided for a review of historic significance when demolition of more that 50% of a home was proposed and that the current code does not give the Village authority to require owners of historic homes to maintain their properties.

Current law covers homes but does not address historic sites, markers, and monuments that may “represent our historic, architectural or cultural past.” Though the current code charges the Committee on Historic Preservation with fostering civic pride and providing an educational role with respect to preservation it gives the Committee no charge on how to carry this out.

The Committee examined the role of the homeowner in designating their home as a historic property. They recommended that the Village adopt a policy to require written owner’s consent prior to pre-designation and stated that it would be “the CHP’s responsibility, as it is in many other municipalities, to work with the owners of all potentially pre-designated properties and gain the owner’s consent. “

In order to provide an incentive to the property owner to maintain and preserve historic homes, the committee advised the Village to consider local tax benefits for owners of designated homes, saying, “Given the relatively small number of properties that would be found of significant historic importance we do not consider this a burden on Village finances.”

Once was home was granted historic designation the status would become part of the deed and it would pass to the next owner when the house was sold.

During the meeting Fisher discussed why age alone was not a suitable criteria for determining historic significance and Trustee Eisenman concurred saying, “age may not be the best criteria,” and that “homes can be significant, despite their age.”

The report from the Ad Hoc committee recommends that the Village do the following:

  • Adopt a pre-designation law and continue to enforce current code while establishing “the criteria against which buildings, structures, sites and objects would be evaluated.”
  • Hire a consultant with experience in this area to work with the Village Planner and Village Historian in reviewing and surveying Scarsdale to pre-designate historic properties.
  • Train CHP and BAR members on standards for reviewing historic properties

From the tone of the discussion, it appeared that the Trustees embraced the committee’s recommendations and would propose them for adoption by the full board.

 

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