By Kellen M. Quigley
Proposed plans to demolish three properties on West Main Street in Springville for a construction project were put on hold Monday after action by the Board of Trustees.
Following a nearly two-hour public hearing Nov. 5, the village board reversed a decision made by the Historic Preservation Commission to allow a certificate of appropriateness for demolition of buildings at 17, 19 and 25 W. Main St. for a project by Springville Crossing Church.
The decision to deny the certificate was based upon the record before the Historic Preservation Commission, its three meetings in August and September, the application submitted for the certificate and deliberation by the village board.
“If Springville Crossing wants to re-apply, they can revise their application and resubmit it,” said Village Mayor William Krebs.
Additionally, the board advised the Historic Preservation Commission to seek advice from the village attorney if necessary in order to better follow the code for the design standards of any application for building alteration or demolition in the local historic preservation district.
During a special meeting of the commission Sept. 26, the application by Springville Crossing for demolition of the properties, the construction of a new parking lot and green space and the construction of a new building was approved.
Since then, Krebs said the village received three appeals by aggrieved persons concerning the decision. About 40 community members were in attendance Monday for the appeals hearing.
“It’s wonderful to see so many people here interested in our village center, interested in historic preservation and it’s something I never thought I’d see,” Krebs said. “Everybody in this room has a single, united interest and that is to make our village center a better place.”
Springville resident Murray Regan addressed the village trustees first, saying the certificate of appropriateness should be considered invalid because it is contrary to what he said the historic preservation commission’s mission is.
“This certificate of appropriateness serves only the interest of a small group,” he added. “The village also has goals, a vision and a working, ongoing developed plan.”
Regan mentioned the Springville Center for the Arts, the Lucy Bensley Center and Shuttleworth as preservation projects done in the downtown historic district that saved historic sites.
“The trustees must recindicate,” he said of the appeal. “This is not the path to what they want to attain.”
Seth Wochensky, director of the Springville Center for the Arts, said when he walks through the village center, he is reminded of the changes in the downtown. He said he felt there was a failure in the process of how the certificate was granted and disagreed with the proposed project.
“It would be very difficult for the village to take a stance on another property they wanted to preserve when this was approved,” he said.
Wochensky said while he would agree with a project that aligns with the village’s guidelines for historic preservation, construction of a parking lot conflicts with the process and spirit of the village master plan and historic preservation.
“I just wonder if we’re rushing into something that we’ll regret later on,” he added.
Keith Clark, lead pastor of Springville Crossing, said when thinking of the historical area, part of the church’s goal is to keeping the Joylan Theater a jewel in the downtown and the plan for a parking lot next to it would benefit the community.
“It’s not just a blacktop driveway,” he added. “We’re incorporating green space around the whole perimeter. … Phase II would be to add onto the Joylan to create a larger welcoming area.”
Clark said the church followed the process as they were instructed, supplying everything to the commission that was asked and received approval. He said they began moving forward and it would be difficult to backtrack.
When Dave Batterson, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, addressed the village board, he said the commission did not authorize demolition but merely the next step in application of demolition if the village would allow it.
Batterson said studies were done on the buildings in question and were considered beyond repair. He said letters of code violation had also been sent to the properties’ owners several times. However, he said the commission was also concerned about some of the plans proposed for the project.
“We were stuck right here during our last meeting,” Batterson said. “Each one of us sat there going, ‘I don’t know if this is the decision we want to make,’ but time was becoming a situation.”
After public comment, the Board of Trustees deliberated based on the record before them and the comments from the hearing.
Mayor Krebs said one of the primary reasons for their decision was the state of the application, which was incomplete in many sections and contained some unclear information.
“The Historic Preservation Commission did a decent job at trying to guide the applicant to what was required to fulfill this application,” said Trustee Alan Chamberlin. “It’s in my belief that in no way should the certificate of appropriateness been issued.”
Trustee Kim Pazzuti agreed, adding that the commission had to follow the guidelines to make the right decision and it’s something they shouldn’t have felt rushed into doing.
“I know it puts everybody in a tough position, and I don’t think that’s our intension,” said Trustee Nils Wikman. “If you look at the required items on the application, it doesn’t go into the scope necessary.”