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Historic preservation law adopted

The Clarence Town Board on Wednesday adopted a law designed to preserve its historic nature by putting restrictions on what owners of older homes and other buildings can and can't do to their properties.

And most of the audience wasn't particularly happy about the decision, either.

"Great," muttered one resident, after the board voted, 4-0, for the historic preservation law.

The law, like a dozen or so others already in existence in Western New York, seeks to maintain the town's old-fashioned rural charm by restricting what changes owners of older properties can make to the outside of their buildings.

Before those owners could make exterior changes, they would need to receive a "certificate of appropriateness" from a special preservation committee.

Tax breaks are granted on properties whose value increases because of work that preserves them. Those on the list also can appeal.

Wednesday's vote came after a two-hour public hearing in which homeowner after homeowner berated the proposed law, saying it would be too great a financial burden and that the town had no business telling them how to take care of their property.

"The law goes against the American Dream of owning a home and then being able to freely live in it," said Michael Rockwell, the owner of a 150-year-old home on Goodrich Road.

A handful of speakers supported the law, saying it would not only preserve the ambience of the town but also increase property values.

Town Board members also tried to assure the audience that the law would not be overly onerous and that the town would never allow homeowners to end up in foreclosure because they couldn't afford to keep their properties up to the law's standards.

The board also amended the law to eliminate possible jail time for offenders. The original language called for 15 days in prison. Penalties for violators will now be from $20 to $250 a day for each day the violation goes uncorrected.


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