One of the first buildings that should be designated for preservation if the city passes a landmark ordinance is the 1920-era City Hall, two speakers said at Wednesday's public meeting on the proposed new law.
About 35 people turned out to hear a presentation by two representatives of the Preservation Coalition of Erie County on what such laws mean to municipalities. Susan A. McCartney, chairwoman, and A. Scott Fields, a trustee, said preservation laws are tools to allow citizens to protect their resources. Citizen participation is crucial to the success of preservation efforts, she said.
Fields said while some contend that historic designation lowers property values, it actually does the opposite. He said funding is available to help communities with preservation projects. And, tax credits are available to individual property owners, but only if their community has a law in place. He said the tax credits are an enticement to developers and others to restore old buildings.
He said often historic preservation is a catalyst for economic development.
In response to a question from Bonnie W. Soley of Niagara Rapids Boulevard, Ms. McCartney said there often has been strong opposition from developers in Buffalo. In particular, she cited designation of the Joseph Ellicott Preservation District around Niagara Square in Buffalo. Some developers were "intensely opposed" to the creation of that district, she said. On the other hand, she said the Buffalo Common Council has been very supportive of preservation efforts.
Fields said developers often will cooperate if the laws are very specific and they are not delayed by conflicting interpretations.
Ms. McCartney and Niagara County Historian Dorothy M. Rolling said the first building the city should designate is City Hall. Mrs. Rolling suggested that the City Council enact a moratorium on demolishing historic structures until the law can be enacted. She cited last week's demolition by the city of the former Cleveland Avenue School.
City Hall isn't presently threatened, she said, but could be if somebody decided a more modern structure was needed. She said there are some indications that the Lavinia Porter House on Buffalo Avenue in the South End might be in jeopardy. She said it is one of the last of the original houses owned by members of the Porter family, who were central figures in the area's early development.
Senior City Planner Thomas J. DeSantis estimated it would take several months to complete the ordinance and send it to City Council for enactment. He said the fact that four of the seven Council members attended Wednesday's meeting was a good sign.
In other business, the board:
Reaffirmed its recommendation in favor of the proposed lease with the city school district for use of land in Hyde Park for a new high school. DeSantis said the wording the board approved Sept. 10 was not in the required legal form.
Approved a site plan for an 3,352-square-foot expansion and addition of a drive-through window at the Rite Aid drug store at 7812 Buffalo Ave. The expansion will include acquisition and demolition of a single-family home next to the store, according to William Paladino, who represented the store owners.
Approved a site plan for James Zetes, who wants to open a seasonal hot dog stand on property at 501 Cayuga Drive. Zetes said he purchased the three-quarter acre property at the city auction.
Set a public hearing for 6 p.m. Oct. 22 on proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance section on negotiated planned developments. DeSantis said the changes were prompted, in part, by the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency's request for specific mention of the area in the ordinance. DeSantis said the area already was covered by the ordinance, but the changes the agency requested will be incorporated.