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State supports raising house in Schenectady's Stockade

State supports raising house in Schenectady's Stockade

The state has found that historic integrity would be retained with raising and moving a Washington A
State supports raising house in Schenectady's Stockade
A rendering of the proposed raising of 4 Washington Ave. in Schenectady's historic Stockade district.

The state has found that historic integrity would be retained with raising and moving a Washington Avenue home in the Stockade out of the floodplain.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation advised the Schenectady Historic District Commission that there would be no adverse effect to historic properties by lifting and pushing back a home by the Mohawk River out of the 100-year floodplain.

For months the Historic Commission has tabled a decision on Meredith Anker’s proposal to raise her home at 4 Washington Ave. by seven feet, and move it back up to 15 feet. The project is the first proposed in the Stockade, which was settled by the Dutch in the 1600s.

Commissioner Marilyn Sassi said she believes the board will vote on the project during its meeting on Monday after receiving a letter from Larry Moss, a technical specialist with Historic Preservation, saying that the project would not affect the historic neighborhood.

“It’s pretty much what I was expecting,” Sassi said. “I do believe the vote will now take place.”

The commissioners held off on voting on the project last month until they received the letter from Moss. Sassi said the five commissioners recently received copies of the letter dated Nov. 2.

Moss said on Thursday that the state agency is reviewing hundreds of proposals to elevate historic homes statewide, mostly in downstate from homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“We are successfully working with people involved to make sure there is no loss of integrity to historic properties,” Moss said. “Some proposals we have looked at would raise homes up to eight or nine feet and others are only three feet. This will be the first house lifted in the Stockade, but there are other historic districts where this has been done before.”

Anker has received a grant from New York Rising, which is expected to cover a majority of the project costs. Project architect Frank Gilmore declined to provide the grant and project price tags.

The vote on raising Anker’s home is uncertain after Mayor Gary McCarthy appointed two new commissioners to the Historic Commission earlier this month.

The seven-member body has been operating as five since former chairwoman Sara Stein and commissioner David Marhafer stepped down in September.

New commissioners Mark Meigher and Patricia Yager are expected to attend the meeting on Monday and will have the ability to vote, according to Jackie Mancini, the city’s director of development.

Sassi said she is concerned about the new commissioners possibly voting on the project without having background on the issue. She said that could “knock this right out of the water.”

“The new members will have full voting rights and [Assistant Planner Rima Shamieh] said she has been trying to bring them up to speed,” Sassi said. “I’m horrified. They don’t appear to have any historical background. The other members have experience in historic properties. And a number of us have done extensive research.”

Meigher works at the Albany Academies and is on the board of Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County. Yager is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway in Niskayuna. McCarthy could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Gilmore said he believes the letter from Moss is “a triumph” but that, if approved, project construction would probably have to be pushed back to late spring.

If Anker were given the green light by the Historic Commission on Monday, the project would still have to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Zoning Board’s next meeting is on Dec. 2.

If the Historic Commission votes against the project on Monday, Anker and Gilmore could appeal to the Zoning Board and the Zoning Board could override the Historic Commission’s decision.

“I’m not sure when we could actually begin because this process has taken so long, well over six months,” Gilmore said. “We’re so late in the season now. It’s a shame and it was totally unnecessary.”

Gilmore said he expects Larmon House Movers of Schuylerville to jack up the house within two weeks of starting construction and moved in about a week. Then the existing foundation would be demolished and new footings installed for the house.

As part of the project, Gilmore was required to submit a proposed archaeological monitoring plan. During construction, Landmark Archaeology of Altamont will be on hand if artifacts or remains are uncovered.

“They will be there once the house is elevated and moved,” Gilmore said. “Then we will demo the old foundation. At that point we will be down low enough to undisturbed soils that could have important artifacts. If there is anything uncovered the excavation will be stopped and items or remains taken out.”

Sassi said voting on raising Anker’s home will set a precedent for the historic district. Another Stockade homeowner has already expressed interest in raising their home, she said.

“I only know of one resident that is going to request it too,” she said. “That is one of my concerns about if this does go through, what this would mean to the streetscape of the entire Stockade.”

Monday’s Historic Commission meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in Room 209 at City Hall. Also on the agenda is a proposal to install solar panels on the roof of a house at 22 Front St.

Sassi said Mabel Leon’s request for solar panels is the Historic Commission’s first. She said the commission voted against it last month, but the applicant was asked to gather more information about the project and present it again at the next meeting.

“The Historic Commission chair of Clifton Park said they have outlawed it completely,” Sassi said. “I was totally against it to begin with. If you want solar panels on your home to save energy you don’t belong in a historic district.”

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