Village Board denies Historic District appeal

Gwen Chamberlain

The Penn Yan Village Board has upheld a decision by the Historic Preservation Commission that will not allow a Clinton Street homeowner to use vinyl siding on his house.

Kevin McLoud, who owns 125 Clinton St., said he has put a lot of work into the house, but he was not aware of the Historic Preservation District when he signed the contract to buy the property. He said the vinyl siding he wants to install would look like clapboard, and it would be something that would hold up over time.

Fran Dumas, a member of the commission and the Yates County Historian explained the commission operates under a village ordinance that was established with state standards for preservation.

“Every single building in Penn Yan’s magnificent historic district is an individual,” she said, explaining that each structure represents a time in the history of the village. “You don’t want to nick away at that context,” she said, explaining the commission’s job is to preserve the district’s significance using standards handed down from the State Historic Preservation Office.

“We really felt that we could not make any other decision,” she said.

The trustees unanimously denied McLoud’s appeal. Trustees Robert Church and Christine Christensen said they felt their hands were tied. Church encouraged McLoud to bring any additional information to the board to support his appeal.

Trustee David Reeve said preservation and protection values are important, and that the village should not alter its commitment to preservation.

Dan Banach, who previously served on the village board commented that a previous village board set a precedent in the past by allowing Birkett Mills to use siding on its structure at the corner of Main and Water Streets.

Dumas called that decision “an extremely egregious case with a lot of outside influence.”

After the vote was taken, Attorney Ed Brockman said he had met with the commission and did some research. He said his concern is that the commission’s work is “reactionary,” explaining the body only acts when someone wants to do something with their property. His concern is the long term effect of that is that people will not keep up their properties in the district. He said the village should find financial incentives to maintain structures in the district.

Reeve said there is a system in place for owners of property in the district to apply for a village tax exemption after investing in improvements that increase the property’s value. “I don’t see that as a major contributing factor,” said Brockman, adding, that he isn’t aware of any property owners who have applied for the exemption.

Reeve, who is chairman of the village’s Planning and Development Committee, said the village should find ways to provide information and resources to property owners. “It’s never wrong to update the commitment that this board had to establish the commission.

The village’s historic district includes 65 acres with more than 281 structures that date from he 1820s to 1929 and represent examples of historic residential, commercial, industrial, civic and ecclesiastical structures. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.