Government

Yorktown Landmarks Commission Maintains Eligibility for State Grants

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Lynn Briggs, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, holds up a “Homes of Historic Distinction” plaque at the March 7 town board meeting. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
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YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Yorktown’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is still eligible for state funds, thanks to a small revision made to the town code.

Under the federally sponsored Certified Local Government (CLG) Program, Yorktown is among 76 municipalities that maintain a Certified Local Government status, which it received in 2006. Administered through the State Historic Preservation Office, the program provides services to help communities protect, preserve and celebrate their historic resources.

The program offers participants a host of benefits, including eligibility for grants designated exclusively for CLG projects, according to the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation website. To qualify, a municipality must have established preservation legislation and an appointed preservation review commission.

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Unbeknownst to town officials, a small change made to Yorktown’s landmarks preservation chapter in 2012 threw it out of compliance with the state’s model law. The revision inserted a requirement that the commission obtain written consent from owners of a property that may be subject to a designation proposal. Supervisor Michael Grace said at the March 7 town board meeting that the line was inserted to ensure resident input and consent during the designation process.

“We were going to lose tens of thousands of dollars in potential funding if we lost our certification,” Lynn Briggs, commission chairman, said.

Once it was brought to the commission and board’s attention six months ago through an incidental correspondence with the CLG program, the two entities quickly worked together to remedy the compliance issue. A resolution removing the words “shall obtain written consent” was passed at the March 7 meeting after a swift public hearing.

“The town board has been very supportive of preservation,” Briggs said, “Having our status secure really helps us build credibility.”

Grace particularly touted the commission’s recently enacted initiative to designate Homes of Historic Distinction (featured regularly in this paper). For $100, a Home of Historic Distinction is marked with a plaque stating its historical significance. The commission works alongside homeowners to research the homes and decide what is put on the plaque.

Briggs said homeowners should not be concerned about being forced to comply with any landmark designation standards, as the town board ultimately has approval authority when it comes to designating landmarks. Additionally, she said, the commission doesn’t move forward with projects without homeowner support, and that typically homeowners taking initiative is what alerts the commission to possibly qualified sites.

With its status intact, Briggs said the commission is going to continue working with town officials to preserve Yorktown’s historical resources. She said that if a structure of historic significance can’t be saved, perhaps parts of it can be repurposed into something new, an idea that, she said, punctuates the town’s motto, “Progress with Preservation.”

“We want progress,” she said. “But we also want people to be mindful of preserving this incredibly rich legacy that we have here in our town. I think we can do that, especially with the nice partnership we feel we’ve established with the local government.”

Additionally, Briggs stressed that the town’s history is something the commission intends to be enjoyed by the entire community and she encourages resident input.

Currently there are 14 designated landmarks in Yorktown and 20 Homes of Historic Distinction, although a study conducted by the historic architectural firm, Larsen Fisher, identified over 200 houses of notable interest in Yorktown. Briggs encourages readers with information regarding the history of their homes to reach out to Nancy Milanese at nmilanese@yorktownny.org.

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