Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs looks to halt demolition of old houses

Want to tear that old house down? Not so fast.

Want to tear that old house down? Not so fast.

City officials will seek public comment next month on a plan to temporarily stop demolition of buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places or are structures that contribute to national historic districts.

The start of an apparent demolition at 23 Greenfield Ave. inspired the proposed moratorium, which would last through February if approved.

“Let me tell you, if they can tear this building down, they can tear anything down,” said John Franck, commissioner of accounts.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday, June 2.

The Greenfield Avenue house is a contributing structure to the Broadway historic district on the National Register of Historic Places but is not protected under city laws because it’s not in any city historic district, explained Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.

City and national historic districts don’t always line up, and in this case the loophole means the city doesn’t have the authority to tell the still-unknown owners not to tear down the stately two-story brick home.

If the moratorium passes, no demolition would be allowed until the city revises its zoning ordinance or until February, whichever comes first. The city also could renew the moratorium if the zoning ordinance is not revised by February.

Bosshart also asked the City Council on Tuesday to consider expanding city historic districts to include all of the areas covered by national historic districts.

At the Greenfield Avenue house, contractors removed windows and porch roofs a couple of weeks ago, saying they were hired to get rid of asbestos.

But Ron Kim, commissioner of public safety, said asbestos was removed years ago by a previous owner and officials believe the windows and roofs were taken out to prepare for demolition.

The trouble is that they can’t ask the owner what’s going on because the home was recently sold but the buyer isn’t listed in county records yet.

The city building department issued a stop-work order and is waiting for the owner to step forward. A city code enforcement officer also required the contractors to board up first-floor windows so that people can’t get into the house.

There’s not much more that the city legally can do, officials explained at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“At this point in time, the city must take somewhat of a wait-and-see attitude,” said Mayor Scott Johnson.

The down side of waiting is that while first-floor windows are boarded up, second-floor windows are wide open to the elements.

Under the proposed demolition moratorium, no pending applications would be approved and no new applications for demolitions would be accepted.

The city secured a state grant to revise part of its zoning ordinance relating to historic review, which is expected to include the demolition policy.

The preservation foundation also recently protested the proposed demolition of an 1871 home at 66 Franklin St., which is a contributing structure in the Franklin Square Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

That house is also part of a city historic district, so the city Design Review Commission would have had to approve the demolition, which the owner put on hold after public outcry.

Categories: News

Leave a Reply