The Village of Williamsville’s Historic Preservation Commission on Oct. 23 held an informational meeting regarding the possible establishment of South Cayuga Road as a local historic district.
Below are a series of answers to frequently asked questions regarding the Historic Preservation Commission, its responsibilities, and the historic nomination and designation processes. Also provided are details of the HPC’s possible proposal to designate South Cayuga Road as a historic district.
- What is the Historic Preservation Commission and who are its members?
The Village of Williamsville’s Historic Preservation Commission is a board of seven Village Board-appointed members who review and recommend designation of historic landmarks, sites and districts to the Village Board.
The HPC was established pursuant to the Certified Local Government Program created by the National Historic Preservation Act and authorized by Article 5 of the New York State General Municipal Law. The Village of Williamsville is one of approximately 75 certified local governments in New York State, and one of 11 in Erie and Niagara counties.
The commission also conducts surveys of landmarks within the village and reviews and approves certain proposed work on properties that are historically designated. The HPC seeks to assist and guide property owners prior to any construction, as the commission can recommend materials and renovation processes that can ensure a property’s historical character remains intact.
An overview of the Historic Preservation Commission’s mission and authority can be viewed in Chapter 47 of the Village of Williamsville’s code, and in the village’s Historic Landmark Design Standards, both of which are available for download at www.WalkableWilliamsville.com.
The Historic Preservation Committee is led by its chairperson, Kate Waterman-Kulpa, in addition to Mary Lowther, village historian; as well as Anthony Bannon, Stephen Dyson, Chuck Akers, Jim Tammaro, and Wesley Stone.
- What is a historic district and what is the designation process?
According to Preservation Buffalo Niagara, historic districts provide neighborhoods the ability to intervene in the demolition and inappropriate development of their community.
Properties within a historic district would be subject to an application and review process when seeking changes to the exterior of the property. The village’s HPC would need to review and approve the alterations prior to any work being initiated. This is the same procedure used for the village’s 35 local landmarks that are currently designated as historic.
A property or district becomes designated following a series of steps. Ultimately, it is the decision of the Village Board to either approve or deny a designation.
The designation process is as follows:
- A historic district nomination form is accepted by a majority vote of the village’s Historic Preservation Commission.
- The commission schedules a public hearing to gather input from the community.
- Upon closing 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 HPC denies recommendation, the nomination process ends.
- If the recommendation is approved by the HPC, the measure then moves to the authority of the Village Board.
- The Village Board would then schedule its own public hearing to gather input from the community.
- Upon closing its public hearing, the final step is for the Village Board to hold a public vote to decide on the designation.
- Has the HPC conducted research regarding possible 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, historic preservation and planning firm. This document can be downloaded on the village’s website, www.WalkableWilliamsville.com, by clicking on the Historic Preservation Commission’s page within the “committees” dropdown menu. A print copy of the document is also available for viewing by visiting the village’s Building Department at Village Hall.
While Flynn Battaglia was compiling research for the intensive level survey, the HPC held meeting with the residents of S. Cayuga to gather input and provide information.
Additionally, in August, the HPC hosted a program led by Preservation Buffalo Niagara to provide the community with an overview of local historic districting.
- What properties would be included in South Cayuga’s historic 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.
- Will the nomination process affect construction on the selected properties?
Once the HPC renders a vote to accept the nomination through the majority approval of its members, beginning the next day, no building permits for work affecting the exterior of properties within the proposed district would be issued by the Building Department, with the exception of emergency repairs (as determined by the Building Department) until the nomination process, which was described above, is completed.
The Village of Williamsville requires building permits for major structural modifications, demolitions, fences, or retaining walls as delineated in Section 28-4 of the village code. No such permits can be issued while the designation process is underway, unless the code enforcement officer determines such work is an emergency.
It should be noted that the village does not require permits for siding, window replacements, or painting. If in fact the Village Board at the end of a nomination process officially designates a historic district, such work would be reviewed by the HPC should they be for properties within a designated historic district.
If residents are unsure whether work they are contemplating requires a building permit, they should contact Tim Masters.
- If historic district designation is approved, what is the process for certain alterations or construction to occur on the included properties?
According to the current Village of Williamsville code, people owning properties that are designated historic must obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness from the HPC before they can carry out any: exterior alterations, restorations, reconstruction, excavation, grading, demolition, new construction, or moving of a landmark or property within a historic district.
Exterior alterations covered by the village code includes any material change to the property, its light fixtures, signs, sidewalks, fences, steps, paving or other exterior elements which “affect the appearance or cohesiveness” of the landmark or district.
A Certificate of Appropriateness is available for download at www.WalkableWilliamsville.com within the “Building Permits” section underneath the “Government” tab.
The HPC and the Village Board are reviewing the village’s current Historic Preservation Code and Historic Landmark Design Standards with the goals of updating the code and modifying the Design Guidelines to include specific language that would apply to residential properties.
If you would like further information about historic districts, call the Building Department at 632-7747, or email email@example.com.
Below are the nomination forms for the historic district. Please note, the HPC has not held a vote regarding the nomination forms.