Schenectady County

Historic panel may vote on plan to elevate Schenectady house

A Schenectady homeowner who wants to raise her historic Stockade home out of the 100-year floodplain
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A Schenectady homeowner who wants to raise her historic Stockade home out of the 100-year floodplain may finally get an answer one way or another from the commission tasked with preserving the historic character of the city’s historic districts.

The Schenectady Historic District Commission has put off taking a vote three times now on Meredith Anker’s request to raise her Washington Avenue home on the banks of the Mohawk River six and a half feet above where it stands today. Finally, after several tense debates and a tedious meeting of the commission Monday night, members indicated they will be ready to take a vote at their Sept. 14 meeting.

That came after urging from city officials, including Assistant Corporation Counsel Christina Smith and Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico, that the commission could not keep postponing a decision without cause.

“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the commission or the applicant to table this another time,” Smith said Monday, as commissioners asked exhaustive questions about a form required as part of the state-mandated environmental review process.

Normally, a homeowner’s request to elevate their home out of the floodplain would be a simple one to review. City officials would just need to make sure it abides by city zoning and code, and doesn’t harm any neighboring properties in the process. But Anker’s home sits within the Stockade Historic District, which was settled by the Dutch in the 1600s and is largely intact today.

That means any request to change its appearance from the public right-of-way needs review and approval by the city’s Historic District Commission, which is worried that the move could harm the historic integrity of the neighborhood and set a precedent for other homeowners who might want to do the same thing. Making matters worse, commissioners have said, is that the city never pursued funding for a comprehensive study of the issue following Tropical Storms Irene and Lee until just this summer.

“The house is not a beautiful house,” Anker said Monday in her third appearance before the commission. “It was an old boat house.”

“That’s not the issue,” said Commission Chair Sara Stein. “Our job is to make sure it’s kept as similar to what it was when it was first built.”

Anker’s architect and neighbor, Frank Gilmore, has come up with a design that would mask the elevation of the home.

Commissioners asked Gilmore if he could tweak the design of the steps leading up to the front door, and provide updated renderings showing the roofline of Anker’s home in comparison to her neighbors.

With a final design and project application in hand, they said, they would be willing to vote on the application come September. Anker and Gilmore are eager to get an answer soon, since the state grant Anker received to elevate her home has a deadline attached to it.

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