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Board votes to landmark Potomac Avenue farmhouse despite owner's wishes

The yellow farmhouse at 794 Potomac Ave. that once belonged to 19th century lawyer, poet and Presbyterian minister John Chase Lord is staying up.

At least for now.

The Buffalo Preservation Board unanimously decided that the house, which is more than 100 years old, is worthy of landmark status.

The vote last week followed a debate over whether the board would delay recommending landmark status for 90 days to give developers and the current owners more time to come up with a plan for the property that everyone could agree on.

"We have a reasonable proposal," said Beverly Barry, the sister of owner Dennis Barry. "If this group can table it, we have time to come up with something better for the neighborhood, better for my brother, better for the City of Buffalo."

This was second time in past two weeks that representatives of Dennis Barry challenged the Preservation Board's interest in recommending the property be landmarked, which would make demolition more difficult.

Two weeks ago, the representatives were asking for permission to knock down the farmhouse to make way for 11 new townhouses. The board rejected that request but said a garage behind the house could be demolished.

Beverly Barry, developer Mark Melchiorre and block club members returned last week and asked the board to table the matter for 90 days, saying they're working with the neighborhood to come up with an alternative and see if there's a way to incorporate the house into development plans.

"We are all working together with Preservation Buffalo Niagara to incorporate elements of the historic house and property and a new building all together," Melchiorre said.

But Preservation Board members rejected their request, saying landmarking would not hinder the group's ability to come up with a plan to save the house and, in fact, would make it easier since historic landmark status has tax benefits.

In addition, the board felt moving forward with landmark status would ensure that the building does not get demolished.

"If you are looking to save the home, the landmarking will be a benefit because you can get tax credits to rehab the home for adaptive use," said Eric Lander, vice chairman of the Preservation Board.

The board's vote to recommend the house for landmark status is not final. It now goes to the Common Council for consideration.

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