Amsterdam’s City Historian Robert von Hasseln is angry with the ill-prepared editorial A plan for the city’s future, published in the July 2, 2011, edition of the Recorder that has incorrect information and misconceptions about Historic Preservation. He expressed his anger in a tersely worded letter sent to Recorder Editor Charlie Kraebel and the entire Historic Amsterdam League. I have since removed the letter from my blog at Mr. von Hasseln’s request and he is free to comment or repost if he so desires.
As a member of both the Zoning Update Committee and the Historic Amsterdam League, I agree with the City Historian.
The following statement from the Recorder editorial is just incorrect:
One interesting issue addressed in the update is the historic resources overlay zone that includes a section of Guy Park Avenue, Guy Park Avenue Extension and the Bridge Street area. It’s largely the same area that exists now in the historic resources overlay district, though the current ordinance lays out no guidelines or method of enforcement.
The historic overlay zone did not change in the proposed zoning ordinance. There are historic guidelines in our current ordinance with enforcement common to all sections of zoning code. They have never been followed by either code enforcement or the Planning Commission. Our current guidelines can be found in the following link.
The next statement taken from the editorial is just a flippant remark with no real insight or effort to find any factual information about the reasoning behind a local Historic Preservation Commission.
Also, the new draft establishes a Historic Review Board that would have to approve windows, doors, siding, demolition, new buildings, additions and more. During a series of ward meetings to discuss the progress of the zoning ordinance update, residents of the Guy Park Avenue area were concerned that the regulations might be too costly. That concerns us as well. Plus, the last thing Amsterdam needs is another board when there are several already in place, particularly planning and zoning boards, set up to deal with issues like this.
Our current regulation is not working, necessitating change. The Historic Preservation Commission is a necessary part 0f establishing Amsterdam as a Certified Local Government which also enables the City to receive Federal Historic Grants and tax credits. The membership of the Commission is regulated by New York State and must be composed of at least one from each the following categories; an architect experienced with historic buildings, a historian, a resident of a historic district, a member of a local historic preservation group. The NYS guidelines can be found in the following links.
The membership of the Historic Amsterdam League have agreed to voluntarily conduct a visual survey of Amsterdam’s buildings under guidance of the City Historian, to decide if the current Historic Overlay District needs to be expanded or reduced in some areas. There are many homes in our city that contain significant historic architectural features that are outside of the current district. Adding new historic zones would make them eligible for preservation grants. This effort has no effect on the current zoning proposal. Any changes would have to be added after the passing of the proposed ordinance.
The City Historian came up with a solution that is both sound and reasonable to help keep Amsterdam’s architectural history. The members of the Zoning Update Committee agreed and the community should also.