South Cayuga Road historic district nomination focus of informational meeting

The Village of Williamsville’s Historic Preservation Commission during a special meeting on Monday took no action on two agenda items that, if approved, would have set into motion a process with a goal of establishing South Cayuga Road as a local historic district.

Instead, the HPC agreed to hold an informational meeting regarding the historic district nomination process and how it would specifically apply to South Cayuga Road properties.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, in the auditorium at Village Hall, 5565 Main St. The program, which is open to the public and residents of South Cayuga, will be coordinated by the HPC with assistance from Preservation Buffalo Niagara.

South Cayuga property owners will be will also be notified of the meeting by postal mail. Anyone with an interest, but unable to attend the program may contact the Building Department by emailing the correspondence to Code Enforcement Officer Tim Masters at tmasters@village.williamsville.ny.us.

Below are the nomination forms for the historic district. Please note, the HPC has not held a vote regarding the nomination forms.

Had the HPC rendered a vote to accept the nomination through the majority approval of its committee members, beginning the next day, no building permits for properties within the proposed district would be issued by the Building Department.

Village code stipulates that only emergency repairs may be made to properties within the proposed district once the nomination process has been initiated. The halting of permit issuance would be in effect until a final determination is made on the proposed designation of the historic district.

The village does not require permits for siding,  window replacements, or painting. Building permits for major structural modifications,  demolitions,  fences,  or retaining walls – which are explicitly delineated in the village code – would be halted as the designation process is underway.  If residents are unsure,  they should contact Masters, whose email address is noted above.

What properties would be included in the district?

If the nomination of South Cayuga Road is ultimately approved by the Village Board, South Cayuga would be Williamsville’s first historic district, encompassing nearly 40 residences along the thoroughfare. The district would extend from near Main Street to approximately several properties south of South Cayuga’s intersection with California Drive.

Historic districts would be located within a new zoning overlay, requiring any proposed changes to the exterior of a property that’s within the historic district to be reviewed and approved by the village’s HPC prior to any construction being conducted. This is the same procedure used for the 35 local landmarks designated within the village.

“The 1997 Reconnaissance Level Survey of Historic Resources identifies several areas of architectural and cultural importance in our village that should become historic districts,” said Kate Waterman-Kulpa, chairperson of the village’s seven-member HPC.

In addition to Waterman-Kulpa, the HPC members are Mary Lowther, village historian; as well as Anthony Bannon, Stephen Dyson, Chuck Akers, Jim Tammaro, and Wesley Stone.

What work has the HPC conducted regarding historic districts?

The HPC has been working toward the establishment of historic districts in the village since 2017, when an intensive level survey of South Cayuga Road was released by Flynn Battaglia, an architecture and planning firm. (Inventories of individual properties begin on page 67 of the intensive level survey.)

In August, the HPC hosted a program led by Preservation Buffalo Niagara which was an overview of the definitions and types of historic districts, how they are established, and how they may be used as municipal planning tools.

According to Preservation Buffalo Niagara’s presentation, historic districts provide neighborhoods the ability to intervene in the demolition and inappropriate development of their community. Residences of a historic district will not have increased property taxes due to being within the district.

The designation process

The designation process is initiated after a historic district nomination form is accepted by the village’s HPC, which would then schedule a public hearing seeking input from the community. Following the hearing, the members of HPC would vote to either approve or deny recommending to the Village Board the establishment of a local historic district.

If the recommendation is approved by the HPC, the measure then moves to the authority of the Village Board, which would then schedule its own public hearing on the matter. Upon closing its public hearing, the final step in the process would be for the Village Board to either approve or deny establishment of a local historic district.

According to the Village of Williamsville’s code, people owning properties that are designated historic must obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness from the HPC if they are seeking exterior alterations, restorations, reconstruction, excavation, grading, demolition, new construction, or moving of a landmark.

Material changes, such as new light fixtures, signs, sidewalks, fences, steps, paving, or other aspects that affect the appearance of the landmark or historic district, must also receive a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission.

Other elements of the Historic Preservation Commission’s authority can be viewed in Chapter 47 of the Village of Williamsville’s code.