An Open Letter to John Kolaga and Carly Battin of the Elmwood Village Association by Kenneth Rogers, Chair, RANHDI Community Council

An Open Letter to John Kolaga and Carly Battin of the Elmwood Village Association by Kenneth Rogers, Chair, RANHDI Community Council

August 18, 2012
Mr. John Kolaga, President
Ms. Carly Battin, Executive Director
Elmwood Village Association

Hi John and Carly,

Thank you for getting back to me with the response of the EVA to our initiative. While your position is better than direct opposition it is still worrisome and I will speak against any delays at the public meetings on Monday and Tuesday. For many of us the last two years have been spent educating the neighborhood, sending out letters, having meetings, reaching out to community groups and block clubs, talking to people at the Bidwell Market, and trying to make contact with the EVA. We have hundreds of letters and cards of support, the support of our political representatives, and the investment of thousands of dollars from property owners behind the initiative. A delay of even a few months increases the chances that a few misinformed individuals will be able to stir up unsubstantiated fears about this project.

In your letter you state the following: “The application for this historic designation originally came from a group that called itself RANDHI – the Richmond Ashland National Register Historic District Initiative. As its name suggests, the stated intention of this group was to establish an historic district for the largely residential area spanning Richmond, Norwood, and Ashland Avenues. In late May 2012, the Elmwood Village Association was made aware that the boundaries of the district had expanded to include the west side of Elmwood –a largely commercial street. Moreover, the application for historic status referenced the area east of Elmwood to Delaware Avenue –termed ‘Elmwood East’ – as a potential additional historic district. In all, the area under consideration for historic status nearly tripled in size without public notice. The effect this designation will have on residents and business owners is unclear at this point.”

Let me correct this paragraph on a point-by-point basis:

  1. The application to the State comes from Preservation Buffalo Niagara based on a request from the RANHDI Community Council (which I chair). The Council raised the money for the consultant (Clinton Brown Company Architecture) to put together and submit the application.
  2. We never shifted our boundaries or concentrated on the “largely residential area” west of Elmwood. The boundaries were never expanded. The boundaries are and have been based on history and existing census tracts, which happen to bisect Elmwood Avenue. There has never been a map that we have produced or shared that did not have Elmwood as the eastern boundary. Every verbal description has stated that Elmwood is the eastern boundary. The NYS tax credit is only relevant to census tracts below the median income statewide so we had to pursue in this application the census tracts that were relevant to the tax credits. This has been the case since we began the initiative two years ago.
  3. While the Elmwood Historic District (East) is eligible for designation there is nobody to pursue such designation so it will sit there. The fact that it was part of the overall application is related to a shared history and geography, but eligibility will not change anyone’s property options, nor will it affect the State Historic Preservation Office‘s (the SHPO) review of publicly-funded work on properties on the east side of Elmwood. The area in review for State and Federal designation remains the same Elmwood Historic District (West). There is no tripling in size.

The businesses and property owners on Elmwood Avenue have to understand only two things:

  1. Under the Main Street grant, any Elmwood business or homeowner applying for that public grant funding will go through the SHPO review process. The historic designation (National Register designation or eligible) does not matter in this case. The SHPO has to determine if the specific building is eligible or not. Even if it is not an eligible building (e.g. not over 50 years old, a storefront was added, other non-contributing) the SHPO will provide a consultation on the alternatives and appropriate treatments if the proposed project goes against the nature of the streets, buildings and local environment.
  2. In the Historic District or the eligible district, or the Main Street funding district, if a business decides not to use State or Federal funding and/or get the State and Federal tax credit (opt out – pay for everything themselves) they will not have to submit an application to the SHPO for their work.

There are no new consequences of this project to property owners on Elmwood since they fall under the EVA-sponsored Main Street grant.

It is the homeowners like myself and my neighbors that have the consequences in this case. We’re the ones with everything to lose if this is blocked. There are contractors of all types working in the Elmwood Historic District this summer that would not have been hired if it weren’t for this law. We have over two dozen households that have applied for and received tentative approvals for significant work on their homes; if this does not go through it will cost them many thousands of dollars that they were counting on for their project budgets with work underway.

Personally for me, if this project does not go through it will cost me approximately $16,000 out of my pocket. And that does not count the money (and time) contributed to this initiative to see it through.

It is in the best interests of our community and neighborhood to see this through. It is in the best interests of the EVA to educate the business owners that this will not affect them in the least, that it has great benefits for their shopping district, and that it will affect their residential neighbors – the people who are their customers.

As a long-time member of the EVA I am asking that you reconsider your position before Monday evening so that we do not have to be at odds.

Kenneth A Rogers, Chair
www.kennetharogers.com

Email from Carly Battin of the Elmwood Village Association requesting a Three Month Delay in certifying the Elmwood Historic District (West)

August 17, 2012
Dear Neighbor,

There is a proposal before the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to list an area termed ‘Elmwood West’ as a State and National Historic District. ‘Elmwood West’ is roughly defined as the west side of Elmwood Avenue to the west side of Richmond Avenue, bordered by Symphony Circle/Summer Street on its south side and Forest Avenue to the north.

The application for this historic designation originally came from a group that called itself RANDHI – the Richmond Ashland National Register Historic District Initiative. As its name suggests, the stated intention of this group was to establish an historic district for the largely residential area spanning Richmond, Norwood, and Ashland Avenues. In late May 2012, the Elmwood Village Association was made aware that the boundaries of the district had expanded to include the west side of Elmwood –a largely commercial street. Moreover, the application for historic status referenced the area east of Elmwood to Delaware Avenue –termed ‘Elmwood East’ – as a potential additional historic district. In all, the area under consideration for historic status nearly tripled in size without public notice. The effect this designation will have on residents and business owners is unclear at this point.

Most property owners in the proposed ‘Elmwood West’ district received a letter in late July notifying them that the state will vote to approve the historic district designation on September 20th, 2012. The State Historic Preservation Office will hold a public meeting on the issue on August 21st at Pilgrim-St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, 335 Richmond Avenue, at 7:00 p.m. We have been told that the only way that the designation will not be approved is if 51% of property owners register their objections in individual, notarized letters before September 20th.

The Elmwood Village Association has serious concerns about the manner in which property owners in the Elmwood Village have been notified about this initiative and how quickly this decision will be made. Additionally, we are concerned about how this historic district designation may affect the Elmwood Village Design Standards and existing City Code to inhibit positive economic growth and new development in the Elmwood Village.

For these reasons, we plan to urge SHPO on August 21st, 2012 to delay its consideration of historic district designation for Elmwood West for at least three (3) months to give affected residents and businesses time to become more educated as to how the designation would affect them and to support or oppose it. We hope you will also attend the public meeting on August 21st to ask SHPO to delay its decision or do so by letter to SHPO before September 20th, 2012 at the following address:

Historic Preservation Field Services Bureau
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation
Historic Preservation Field Services Bureau
Peebles Island, P.O. Box 189, Waterford, NY 12188-0189

Thank you for your consideration,

Carly Battin, Executive Director
The Elmwood Village Association

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About RANHDI

The Richmond Ashland National Register Historic District Initiative [RANHDI] is a community-led collaborative effort to nominate nearly 1,700 mostly residential buildings to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the nation’s official list of architecturally and cultural significant buildings and places. Listing will provide access to economic benefits for property owners who wish to appropriately improve their historic buildings.
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