By Mindy MacLaren
I initially started writing this post in March, 2017, but never finished it, having been waylaid by other commitments. I realize one blog post can’t stop the wheels of government, but given what has been lost since then, I’d feel better knowing I had raised an alarm, at least in writing. Better late than never, I guess.
Written about here, at the legislative meeting of the Penfield Town Board in March of 2017, plans were presented for a new dental office to be built at the southwest corner of Five Mile Line Road and Liberty Street. The dentist, who currently operates his practice from a building literally across the street, was present, as were the owner of the property in question and the architect responsible for the new building’s design. As covered in TNPO’s original blog post about this meeting, “the proposal involves cutting down all the trees on the site and demolishing a small two-story house to build a one-story concrete block/stucco ranch structure in an historical district. The Board had concerns about such things as parking, and an enclosed dumpster.”
Let me be clear: I am not telling any business owner what they should or should not do to accommodate their business’s growth, nor any property owner what to do with their land…this post is not about that. What this post IS about is what the Penfield community stands to gain and to lose, on a variety of levels, from the decisions made by our elected officials. Continuous, hodge-podge development has its consequences, and is a reason municipalities have Comprehensive Plans. I have yet to meet one Penfielder who believes the motto of “the Town of Planned Progress” is accurate.
The address in question (2099 Five Mile Line Road) is roughly one block from the Four Corners, which lies within one of 3 historic districts in Penfield. Traffic through this area is a constant problem thanks to its proximity to Route 441 and the roads’ inability to accommodate the volume. Depending on the time of day, vehicles can be backed up all the way to the High School and sometimes even further north. At other times of day, the Four Corners is generally busy with school buses, commuters speeding along 441 to or from work, students on their way for a slice from any of the 3 pizza joints surrounding this intersection, the rare shopper looking for a parking spot, and as I witnessed just yesterday, 16-wheelers trying to make a tight turn onto Five Mile Line Road, causing all the backed up traffic to back up further in order to accommodate it.
A cluster-fughese to be sure.
At the March, 2017 public hearing, Board members asked the owner of the property what would happen to the small yellow building located there? The response: if the project was not approved, it would continue to be a rental, however if approved, it would be demolished. At that meeting at least, no mention was made of this building’s history as the first public library in Penfield located within an Historical Preservation Overlay District (“HPOD”). Last month, I requested both the Certificate of Appropriateness and the demolition permit for the former library from the Town Clerk’s office and received a document from 2008 that listed it as such, so we have confirmation that the fact was known and able to be easily found. (I myself was made aware of this when I stopped to speak with 2 residents of the Covey House about the construction that left them without access to their parking spaces. I then confirmed this with the Local History Room). Whether the Town Board members knew the history of this building, or they didn’t, the decision to tear it down is short-sighted and sad. This is at least the 2nd building within an HPOD to be demolished in the last 5 years. The other being the site of Little Nellie Williams‘ newspaper office, now a Mark’s Pizzeria. While the Zoning and Planning Boards are responsible for the review and approval of much of Penfield’s development proposals, there are a few distinct areas within town limits in which the Town Board makes these decisions; the Four Corners is one such area.
The Historic Preservation Ordinance of the Town of Penfield was adopted under Irene Gossin’s leadership in 1973. Its purpose is to:
Prevent impairment of or injury to the historical, architectural and cultural value to the community of the property(ies).