Saratoga County

Slow start for historic houses law

The town’s new historic preservation law, passed earlier this year to preserve 120 historic properti
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The town’s new historic preservation law, passed earlier this year to preserve 120 historic properties in the town, isn’t too popular with some of the property owners.

The town gave the owners of the homes and other properties on the list 90 days to say whether they wanted to be part of the program.

As of Friday, 53 of these property owners have informed the Historic Preservation Board that they aren’t interested in being on the list.

“They are afraid of another layer of bureaucracy,” said town historian Jeannine Woutersz, also a member of the Historic Preservation Board.

The new code is aimed at protecting the historic sites and landmarks in the town.

The law goes into effect when the owner of one of these homes or businesses applies for a building permit seeking to make a “significant change” to their property.

The Historic Preservation Board is then notified of this request and has 10 days to meet and review the proposed changes to the historic property. If the changes do not appear to be drastic, then the board would issue a “certificate of appropriateness” regarding the change.

Letters were sent to property owners on Feb. 1. “We had a large response right away,” Woutersz said.

“Some people are flattered to be [on the historic preservation list],” she said.

Some of those receiving letters from the town wanted to know the rules and see the new ordinance, Woutersz said. She said these people were sent copies of the ordinance and the new law was also posted on the town Web site: www.townofwilton.com.

Those who said they don’t want to be part of the program can always “opt back in,” Woutersz said.

Woutersz said she is unhappy that some owners of important historic properties aren’t interested in being listed.

For example, the owner of the former Pepper Turkey Farm homestead on Route 9 just north of Waller Road said he wasn’t interested in being part of the program.

“It’s a beautiful place,” Woutersz said about the brick, Colonial-style home on the western side of Route 9, across the road from the turkey farm that went out of business in the late 1960s because of changes in state health and agriculture laws.

“I’m very concerned about that one,” Woutersz said.

The owners of the former Duncan McGregor homestead on Route 9 that was the longtime home of educator F. Donald Myers, also opted out of the program.

Woutersz isn’t as worried about this property because it remains in the Myers family. F. Donald Myers was the first superintendent of the regional BOCES.

Some of the people who opted out said they didn’t want another restriction on their property.

Deputy Supervisor Raymond O’Conor said Friday that when the program was created, he and the other members of the Town Board weren’t sure what the reaction would be.

O’Conor and other Town Board members stressed that the new code was not intended to be another bothersome layer of government regulations.

“We are not telling them what color to paint the house,” O’Conor said. He said the code does not stipulate any special landscaping designs.

The focus of the program is to recognize the owners of the historic properties and list these sites and homes that are important to the town’s history.

O’Conor said he and others suspect that the town might have to “add additional benefits” to the program to get people to sign on.

“Part of this is the education process,” O’Conor said.

Woutersz said the five-member Historic Preservation Board will meet again May 14 to discuss the final count of people staying in the program and those opting out.

All the owners of the historic properties have been invited to an open house at the Wilton Heritage Society Museum on Parkhurst Road from 1 to 4 p.m. May 18 to talk about their historic home or business.

“We did send invitations to everybody,” Woutersz said.

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