Some homeowners have concerns about their rights in light of a proposal by the Poland Village Planning Commission to implement an ordinance that would prevent owners of homes built before 1900 from demolishing or significantly altering the structures.
“I was concerned that an ordinance might be too restrictive for homeowners,” said Virginia Meloy, who owns an historic home in the village and previously owned the Inn at the Green. “Most [historic homes] are quite well-maintained, it seems to me. ... I think people that have a historic home like the antiquity of it and try to maintain the character of the structure when they go about making moderations.”
The planning commission heard from residents at a meeting Wednesday, the second of three planned meetings to get public input on the proposal. The next planning commission meeting will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at the village hall.
Meloy said that the meeting helped to alleviate some of her concerns, because of the effort the commission members are making to include the public in the decision-making process.
“All the residents were encouraged to express their thoughts and concerns, and we all had an opportunity to do that,” she said. “I felt that the powers that be recognized [my concerns]. I’m very optimistic. ... I think they were really listening to us.”
The creation and scope of authority of a historic preservation board that would oversee an inventory of historic homes and approve major renovations caused concern for some residents.
“It’s a big question to me how far the board would go to preserve the historic integrity of the home versus the quality of housing,” said Patricia Sweeney, who is the owner of a historic home on Main Street that she moved from another location and renovated.
“We wanted to add on to it to make it more livable for today’s families. So I wonder if that regulation had been in place, would we have been able to do that?” she said. “And that would not have been a house that would have fit for our family."
“Most people distrust the idea of a board getting these types of powers — not so much the first board, but a potentially aggressive and assertive overreacting board down the line,” said village resident Sam Moffie in an email, adding that he is supportive of having some kind of historic preservation body as long as some fine-tuning is done to the proposal.
Sweeney also cited concerns about the time line given for the preservation board to make its decisions, the vagueness of some of the language in the proposal and the fact that the appeals process would be handled only by the board and other political figures.
“But I do see merit to maintaining a historic community,” she said.
“I think it’s pretty clear that there are certain things about the draft that would need to change,” said Atty. J. Michael Thompson, chairman of the planning commission. “If the question is, is some kind of ordinance necessary, it seems like a big majority would say yes. Then the question becomes, what kind of ordinance?
“Where, on a continuum from less-restrictive to more-restrictive, is the proper balance, and how do you do that without unreasonably imposing on people’s property rights?”
A similar proposal was brought before the public 18 years ago.
“There was a lot of concern from the homeowners that they were losing some of their freedoms and rights to do with their properties what they would,” said Charles Rumberg, a former village council member who wrote the previous proposal. Rumberg, who has owned several historic homes in Poland, said his proposal never made it to a third public meeting because public opinion was so against the proposed regulations.
“I’m glad to hear it’s being revisited again,” he said. “I’m hopeful that something like this would pass for Poland Village. ... As a historic-home owner, I would find this type of legislation helpful, not just related to the increase in property values, but maintaining the historic character of the village.”