Thursday, April 8, 2010

5. Did you know........

There are many places in New York State that require a form called an "SHPA Determination."
SHPA stands for “State Historic Preservation Act."

An SHPA determination is a structural-archaeological assessment which determines whether or not any registered, eligible or inventoried archaeological site or historic structure will be impacted by any proposed construction. This form is not used in the Village of Southampton but should be. I came across it while doing research on the internet in reference to a variety of New York areas: Saugerties, Shirley, West Monroe, Windsor, Johnson City, Sanborn, Poestenkill, Amityville, and Riverhead. The oldest references were from 2000 which means this form is not new.

One of my “wish list” items for Southampton Village (and the Town) is that it be much more difficult to tear down a historic structure. Right now, in Southampton Village, a permit is not required to tear down anything that was built after 1926. That’s bad. There are many wonderful pieces of architecture here built since then that our community should (and I think does) value (i.e. Westerly, built in 1929 which, by the way, is rumored to have been recently subdivided – separating the cottage and main house properties – and purchased by Tori Burch in January).

If a property was built prior to 1926, a “Demolition Evaluation” form (see an earlier post about that form here: must be completed by the architectural history consultant to the ARB, Zach Studenroth, before it can be demolished. So if he has no issue with demolition, and if the ARB doesn’t question him (and they rarely do), it’s done. Contrary to what people may believe, I have a lot of respect for Zach, but I think he is easily persuaded when it comes to demolition. Since I began following the ARB’s activities, I have only seen him really fight to save a structure once, and that was Dr. Lesesne’s property on Hill Street. I do not know the history of the property…….perhaps it was developed by an early Southampton settler, because at first glance (well, it’s gone now I think) it is not immediately apparent why one would fight so hard to save it. Rumor has it that Dr. Lesesne offended Zach which made him take a hard position against demolition but that could never be proven. But even in this one situation where he was against it, demolition was still approved.

I think the process should be more difficult. I think demolition of anything should be a multi-step process involving more than one board, one person, and one form. That’s why I love the idea of incorporating this SHPA assessment into the process. Instead of relying on our board or consultant to automatically be familiar with the history of every property in the village, especially if it wasn’t one that was inventoried in the late 1970’s and has been documented in a notebook someone may or may not look at, this would force the applicant to research the history of the property and present that information when demolition, or any type of construction/renovation/restoration for that matter, is being proposed. And if they “edit” or “sensor” any of the history, they would be held liable/accountable! Those are scary terms in this area but not impossible, and definitely needed and advisable!

I am currently trying to get hold of a blank one of these forms to learn more, and will keep you “posted.” (Bad pun, I couldn’t resist.) :)

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