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Obtaining certified local government status from the state Office of Historic Preservation took the Village of Hamburg more than two years, and those involved don't expect -- or want -- things to start moving more swiftly now that they have it.

Rather, they see the start of a long campaign of education and gradually winning over public sentiment on the benefits of preserving historic buildings.

The program gives the village access to federal historic preservation funds and to technical and legal assistance. Hamburg joins Buffalo, Amherst, Williamsville, the Village of Lancaster, Lewiston and more than 30 other municipalities across the state in the program.

To be eligible, a municipality must enact a law providing for local designation of landmarks and/or historic districts and establish a procedure for reviewing any proposed changes to designated properties.

In Hamburg, the Community Center, which once served as the water works, is the only building designated as historic.

"It's a learning process for all of us," said Village Trustee Laura Hackathorn, liaison with and former member of the village's Historic Preservation Commission.

She said the commission and Village Board would like to see a historic preservation district but don't want to force it -- or be perceived as trying to force it -- upon residents, who might not be ready for the restrictions it involves.

Douglas H. Hutter, chairman of the commission and an architect, said the next step probably will be community education to demonstrate the benefits of a historic district.

"It increases the value of a building because it is within a zoned district that ensures the quality of the buildings," he said.

But in return, the owner agrees to certain restrictions on changes to the exterior of the structure.

Both said they see establishing a district as a slow, gradual process.

"We want to work with the people of the community," Hutter said.

"It's up to the community to determine how far it wants to take this," Hackathorn added.


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