After nearly half a year of discussion, the Schenectady Historic District Commission reluctantly agreed to allow a homeowner to raise and move her house in the Stockade.
The seven-member commission voted 6-1 Monday evening to allow Meredith Anker to elevate her home at 4 Washington Ave. by 61⁄2 feet and push it back from the sidewalk 15 to 20 feet, marking the first house to be lifted in the Stockade out of the 100-year floodplain.
Anker thanked commissioners for approving the project, but after the meeting said she is angry and frustrated with them for taking so long to come to a decision.
“I found them not to be supportive or cooperative but obstructionist-minded,” she said. “They didn’t want it from the beginning and kept bringing up negative things. To have to fight so hard to save my house is very frustrating.”
Commissioner Marilyn Sassi vast the only no vote. She said other houses in the Stockade do not have the option to be raised and that she believes in the future, if there were a severe storm, that measures would be taken to prevent flooding.
“I feel that from everything I’ve investigated that a lot of improvements have been made with the dams in our area and the locks,” she said. “We had about four days warning with Hurricane Irene. There was such horrible destruction, I cannot believe it could ever be allowed again.”
Although he voted in favor, Commissioner Frank Donegan said he still has concerns about the project. He said he would have preferred a straight elevation, rather than also moving the house back from the sidewalk.
“I’m really frustrated that we even have to deal with this,” he said. “In 400 years the city has done nothing to help preserve the Stockade. Some of it I realize is my own fault, but I think the commission also. We weren’t early on as careful as we should have been.”
Commissioner Jackie Craven, who also voted yes, said she believes the project is a radical solution that jeopardizes the house.
“My heart breaks for this house and the homeowner because I think you will regret it,” she said. “I’m not convinced other less radical solutions have been thoroughly explored. I am voting yes with profound regret.”
New commissioners Mark Meigher and Patricia Yager both voted yes. Monday marked their first meeting. Commissioners Carrie Britt and Ben Wiles also voted yes.
The commissioners approved the project after receiving a letter from technical specialist Larry Moss with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that said raising the home would have no adverse effect to historic properties.
Raising and moving the home has been put on hold until late spring, according to project architect Frank Gilmore. The proposal still has to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for approval on Dec. 2. The ZBA is expected to approve the project.
Anker faces more meetings with the Historic Commission to get the OK for changes to the home that come with moving its location.
“We are only voting on the issue of raising and moving the house,” Sassi said. “We are not going to be voting on any aspect of the details of what the house will look like. That has to be broken down well after this vote is taken.”
Larmon House Movers of Schuylerville will jack up the house and move it. The existing foundation would be demolished.
As part of the project, an archaeologist is required to be on site in case any artifacts or remains are uncovered. Gilmore said if anything is found the project would stop until the items are properly secured.
Anker declined to disclose the project’s total price tag. She is receiving a New York Rising grant, which she said would cover about three-quarters of the cost.
Sassi last week said another Stockade homeowner on North Street has already expressed interest in raising the house out of the floodplain. Monday evening’s vote will likely set a precedent for future project proposals.
“It has been a very, very long haul,” Sassi said. “We have agonized over this decision for months. I think we have talked this to death.”
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.
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