The Village of New Paltz Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) has proposed a new law that would expand their area of influence and change the look of downtown in the years to come.
The HPC, created in 2001, is currently a board made up of five citizens who explore the history of architectural preservation in the historical district of New Paltz and applies them to the new buildings and renovation of buildings in this district. They provide oversight to any exterior changes citizens make to their historic buildings.
According to the HPC’s manifesto, the organization’s objective is to “protect the community’s significant historic, architectural and cultural resources.”
HPC Chair Thomas Olsen pointed out, “We aren’t architects, we’re not builders. We don’t necessarily have any specialized knowledge but we study the topic and we work from guidelines.”
If a property owner in their district of influence wants to make any change to the exterior of their building, this change must be reviewed by the HPC who will research the history of that building and advise the property owner to make decisions that will keep the historical look to match the community.
“We always have to work against the perception that we’re just arbitrary,” Olsen said. “It’s not like ‘my taste says no.’ It isn’t that way. We work from standards that are recognized across the country that come out of Washington D.C.”
The HPC currently has oversight to review the buildings on Huguenot Street and they are hoping to expand this area by the end of the year to more of the village.
“What we’re interested in doing is really not fooling around at all with how their mandate is described but essentially just changing the map,” said Mayor Tim Rogers.
According to the Preservation Guidelines and Recommendations for the Downtown Historic District, “the Downtown Historic District of the Village of New Paltz was created in 2009 when the State of New York awarded the commercial center of New Paltz a place on the State Register of Historic Places and the National Park Service added it to the National Register of Historical Places.”
It is very important to the HPC that this historic district is kept to the guidelines that will keep its historical feel.
“That state and federal designation doesn’t come with any oversight,” Olsen said. “This means that people in this district can continue to build buildings or make changes to their property without ever asking for historic preservation oversight. It’s started to become a problem.”
In the recent years, there have been buildings that were renovated or built which conflict with the historic look of the community. Since the HPC only has oversight on Huguenot St., buildings out of this district can change their exterior without input from the HPC.
Village Board Trustee, Dennis Young, said “the time to do this is now while people are stirred up about [those] buildings.”
In order to increase their district of approval, the current law dealing with the HPC must be changed to include the new areas. According to Mayor Tim Rogers, this could take several months.
“Anytime we write a new law, we have to write it, we have to have often our planning board review it, and sometimes the county planning board has to review it,” Mayor Rogers said. “We would have public hearings on it and then we send the law, if it’s approved by the village board, to the department of state and then they make the law and then the law has to get published. So that’s a several month project.”
Rogers said the response from the community has been mainly supportive.
“The only negative feedback we’ve received is you don’t want a property owner feeling like they’re going to be told that what the HPC wants them to do is going to cost them a whole bunch more money but the HPC is sensitive to that too,” Rogers said. “They’re only going to make suggestions that are in the realm of reasonable.”