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Board rules door renovation retains historical character

After two formal hearings and a flurry of letters and memos sent out on official stationery over several months, Dennis A. Woloszynski gets to keep his door.

The Lancaster building owner this spring ran afoul of the village's Historic Preservation Commission when he replaced a wooden door with a wood door that has a fiberglass veneer.

He appealed the commission's wood-only decision to the Village Board, which ruled Monday night that Woloszynski's renovation did not detract from the historical character of the business district.

"We really don't see a problem with your door," Lancaster Mayor William G. Cansdale Jr. told Woloszynski moments before Monday's Village Board meeting.

Further, after Woloszynski complained about his treatment at the commission's hands in a scathing letter to village officials, Cansdale also called for a meeting between commission and Village Board members to address those concerns.

"I respect what the historic commission does," Woloszynski, who was accompanied by his wife and attorney, Cherie Peterson, said outside the meeting room. "I just think they have to be a little more consistent in what they do."

The fight began in April, when the owner of 46 Central Ave. decided a wooden door had deteriorated to the point where he needed to replace it.

This door leads to two apartments on the second floor and sits to the left of the main entrance to the first-floor photography studio.

Because the 1920s commercial building sits within the village's historic business district, the Historic Preservation Commission must sign off on significant exterior renovations.

"It's our goal to keep as much of that historic fabric intact as possible," Michael J. Meyer, chairman of the commission and a senior architect with Flynn Battaglia Architects, said in an interview.

Woloszynski met with commission members April 13 to get their approval for work on the building facade and a new door made of insulated steel and finished with a faux wood grain.

He said he preferred metal for maintenance reasons and noted that Twin Village Music, which is next door at 44 Central Ave., had installed a metal door.

Commission members responded that each proposal is evaluated on its own merits. They pointed Woloszynski to a part of the Village Code that reads, "Properties which contribute to the character of the historic district shall be retained, with their historic features altered as little as possible," and ruled the replacement door must be wood.

In response, Woloszynski set aside his plans for a metal door. But he also decided it would be too difficult and expensive to have an entirely wooden door made. So he installed a $2,000 wood door with a fiberglass veneer.

"This is a much better door. It looks identical to a wood door," Woloszynski said before Monday's appeals hearing.

A few weeks after the hearing, a building inspector informed the commission that Woloszynski had installed the improper door.

"They sent me a violation notice threatening that they were going to fine me, throw me in jail, whatever," Woloszynski said in the interview.

He also wrote a letter to the Village Board complaining about the "rude, demeaning and arrogant manner in which I was treated" by the Preservation Commission. Meyer declined to comment on the letter.

Woloszynski said he missed the deadline for appealing the commission's ruling to the Village Board because he didn't know he had that right.

The board agreed to let him appeal the commission decision anyway. He didn't find out his appeal was on the agenda Monday until a Buffalo News reporter contacted him.

Afterward, Meyer said he was "disappointed" in the Village Board's decision.

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