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PUBLIC IRE OVER ALTERING OF OLD HOME GETS RESULTS

The public outrage over East Aurora car dealer Frank A. Delia's plans to renovate a Greek revival-style home on East Main Street -- where Millard Fillmore once boarded -- into sales offices may be headed for a quiet death.

After a testy public hearing earlier this month that had residents blasting Delia's plans for the simple blue-and-white family home at 771 Main St., which they say is chock-full of history, Delia has decided to withdraw his rezoning request.

In a letter submitted Wednesday by his attorney, Anthony DiFilippo III, to Village Hall, Delia withdrew his petition requesting a rezoning to commercial from residential for the home that he purchased at the beginning of the year adjacent to one of his dealerships.

Part of the outrage occurred because of the home's historic significance -- though it is not designated as a historic landmark. Some residents were upset because they said they had been previously assured by the village that the neighborhood's residential character would be maintained. Some also railed against the rezoning, noting that before Delia requested the rezoning, he had begun work to the home -- including adding two large picture windows and a door to its one side -- without any required village permits.

The home, built about 1814 and believed to be among East Aurora's oldest, is where Fillmore lived when he first came to town as a teacher. During the Depression, the home, which in its early days was rumored to have been a station on the Underground Railroad, was the childhood home of the Vidler brothers, who now run Vidler's Five & Dime.

While the withdrawal of the rezoning request had been rumored after the opposition was expressed during the public hearing, concern had been building last week among village officials who knew that Delia officials had picked up a demolition application for the site from Village Hall. No completed demolition form had been submitted, however, as of late last week.

The Village Board would have no control over preventing the demolition of the house, village officials said. DiFilippo said Delia did not intend to demolish the home and probably will try to sell it as a single-family home.

"To the best of my knowledge, he will place the house on the market for sale," DiFilippo said Thursday.

Delia, through his attorney, had argued that his initial request was not about carving out spot zoning. Given the amount of opposition at the public hearing, the board tabled the request. The Planning Commission had recommended denial of the rezoning out of concern for potential erosion of the existing neighborhood.

Village Trustee Christine Peters, who earlier this month criticized the rezoning plans and work already begun in the home without prior village approval, said that if Delia ever demolished the home, it would be "unconscionable."

Peters said she would like to see Delia return the house's old windows, which he has replaced with new picture windows.

"Future development should go where the village allows it to go," said Rachelle Francis, a local historian. "The past is something we have to protect. Once a beautiful house like that is gone, there's no bringing it back."

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