An agreement was reached Thursday between the town and the development company that demolished the historic Rosecrans house on old Route 146 last fall without town permission.
The Provident Development Group will pay the town $40,000 to be used for historic preservation purposes, and criminal misdemeanor charges against the company will be dismissed, said town attorney Thomas McCarthy.
The historic home was built in 1845 by John and Phebe Rosecrans and sat on a knoll across from the historic Clifton Park Methodist Church, which was built in 1842.
Provident Development, which includes local developers James Quinn and Kenneth Rotondo, was charged in December with violating town planning and zoning regulations. The town said the destruction of the pre-Civil War Greek Revival home violated the town’s site plan regulations. The approved site plans for the Provident project stated the old house must not be demolished.
Since that time the case has been in Town Court before Justice Robert Rybak.
McCarthy described Thursday’s agreement as “a creative application of the concept of mitigation, being applied in the historic preservation arena.”
The total fines against the company, if it were convicted of the misdemeanor charges, would only have amounted to $3,000. Town officials were shocked and upset that the old home was destroyed and wanted to make a greater statement than just a $3,000 fine.
Victor Caponera, the Albany lawyer representing Provident, said Thursday the agreement would resolve the issue without more litigation.
“It wipes the slate clean,” Caponera said. He said if the case continued it could have resulted in a long, drawn-out court battle.
Caponera said the developers’ proposal to build a replica of the facade of the old home at the old Route 146 site will not happen. Town officials are against this plan.
The developers said last fall the old house was demolished because it was “beyond repair.”
Town Board member Scott Hughes, liaison to the town Historic Preservation Commission, said Thursday the Town Board is “very pleased with the terms of the settlement.”
“We wanted to send a very clear message of deterrence so this never happens again,” Hughes said. “The [$40,000] will go into a dedicated fund for historic preservation uses.”
Hughes said town residents were “horrified and angry” when the Rosecrans house was demolished after town officials stated clearly that the old home must be preserved as part of the Provident project, which included the construction of a 6,200-square-foot office building on the property near the old home site.
Hughes said the Town Board will also discuss amending the town code to strengthen it with more stringent civil penalties for demolishing an important piece of town history, such as a historic home.
McCarthy said the Planning Board will have to approve amended site plans for the Provident project that removes the Rosecrans issue from the approved plans as part of the agreement reached Thursday in court. He said he is recommending the board issue an amended site plan for the project.
Town officials said building a replica of the front of the Rosecrans house, as Provident proposed, would have no historic value.
“It would be a farce,” McCarthy said.
“We can’t bring the building back but we can ensure the money is used for positive, historic preservation purposes,” said Hughes.
He said the $40,000 agreement tells developers “we mean business.”
“These structures will be protected in Clifton Park,” Hughes said.
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