Stockade homeowner Meredith Anker left the Schenectady Historic District Commission’s meeting early Monday evening saying, “I can’t handle this anymore.”
Anker is looking to raise her historic home on Washington Avenue by 7 feet and push it back 20 feet to move it out of the 100-year flood plain. Monday’s meeting marked the fourth time the commission tabled a decision on the project.
Shortly after Anker left the meeting, the five commissioners unanimously decided to hold off from voting on the proposal. They cited a lack of information and are waiting for feedback on the project from the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.
“All of us feel very torn and very unsure about the way the vote should go because we don’t have the expert advice that we really want,” said Commissioner Marilyn Sassi.
The commissioners stressed that a comprehensive study on the issue of flooding in the Stockade needs to be done. Anker and project architect Frank Gilmore agreed.
“Grants are now available for a comprehensive study,” Sassi said. “Everyone agrees that should have happened years ago. The mayor is agreeing to look into this and obtain grant money and go ahead with a study.”
Assistant Corporation Counsel Krystina Smith said if the commission does not vote at one of its next two meetings the project — if the application is considered complete — would be approved by default.
‘hope and pray’
Anker told the commission she will put her home at 4 Washington Ave. on the market if she cannot raise it out of the flood plain.
“I’m not changing the streetscape on Washington Avenue a lot,” she said. “I have a real hard time settling on hoping and praying. It’s nice to hope and pray, but I have a grant that will expire.” The state grant is for flood mitigation.
Anker said her flood insurance bill due Sept. 19 is a total of $3,700. She said she lives in fear of potential flood damage every time a heavy storm sweeps through the neighborhood.
“The new furnace is elevated, hot water tank is elevated and my air conditioning unit is on top of the roof of the garage,” she said. “I have nothing in the basement. I haven’t kept anything down there since the 1995 flood.”
Commissioner Frank Donegan said if the proposal was for a straight elevation of the home, the commission would not have as many concerns.
“You guys made that choice that triggered all of these problems,” he told Anker. “This is the result of that. You made the choice so you cannot blame us for the length of time it has taken.”
Anker walked out of the meeting following Donegan’s comments.
Gilmore is proposing to raise the home 7 feet and push it back 20 feet from the sidewalk.
“The house is parallel to its neighbor and it is orthogonal to the street,” Gilmore said. “We are not changing the grade more than 3 feet and it’s a very small parcel.”
Commissioner Carrie Britt said she’s still undecided on the project because she questions whether moving the home would change it architecturally.
“Is the architecture where the building is located or is it the walls? That’s what I keep circling,” she said. “This is a completely different project than anything we’ve faced before.”
Sassi said she believes approving raising Anker’s home would open the door to other similar proposals from Stockade homeowners.
“If you raise one house we could open a web of problems that could happen and it will change the whole look of the Stockade,” she said. “We need a hydraulics report on what the impact would be on the river with the house being raised.”
Donegan stressed that any decision the commission makes on raising Anker’s home would set a precedent for raising other historic homes across the state.
“This is the first instance in the state historic districts of anyone wanting to elevate, move and fill a property,” he said. “It’s not only a precedent to us. It’s a precedent for the whole state. It’s something we have to take our time on.”
The seven-member commission is down to five commissioners after Chairwoman Sara Stein and commissioner David Marhafer resigned about two weeks ago.
City Planner Christine Primiano said Mayor Gary McCarthy is considering two applicants who have expressed interest in the vacant seats. The mayor appoints the commission members without approval by the City Council.