Thursday, May 24, 2012

There's Many a Slip . . .

With a $10 million renovation proposed for the Columbia County courthouse, including handicapped access ramps along the front of the building, many are concerned about the impact of the new construction on the architectural integrity of the Warren and Wetmore building. Now it seems the Public Works Committee of the Board of Supervisors is niggling about hiring Lothrop Associates, the architects who designed the renovations, to oversee carrying out the project. Nathan Mayberg has the story in today's Register-Star: "Second Lothrop contract considered."      


  1. Carole, If it's OK with you,I found your article
    Gossips Sunday, February 27, 2011
    Courthouse Renovations
    to be most helpful to clarify the evolution of HPC today.Would you mind reprinting it.
    This article makes me
    ask,Who is the responsible Historic Preservation Agency ,overseeing this Columbia Courthouse renovation?The City of Hudson HPC or Columbia County Historic Preservation,or should NYS be brought in? Also what power is granted to Cheryl Roberts,as assigned consulting attorney for the People Of Hudson,whom is also assigned to HPC ,the People's representatives? We the People pay her salary.

    1. Prison Alley: Although I'm flattered and gratified that you find old posts on Gossips useful and refer back to them, I have a problem with quoting an earlier post in its entirety as a comment on another post. It seems unnecessary since people can easily locate the post for themselves. For anyone interested, here's the link:

  2. As I understand it from the article,The Columbia Courthouse itself,has never been land marked.It is only historically protected by being a contributing structure in the Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District.So Hudson Historic Preservation Commission would be responsible for overseeing its renovation,within Hudson historic preservation code. Is this correct?
    And no one can protect the interior, historically as it is not landmarked?

  3. Ward Hamilton submitted the following comment, which I accidentally deleted.

    The Columbia County Courthouse is identified as a contributing structure in the NRHP's Hudson Historic District. Its location, within the boundaries of the Union/Allen/South Front Street Historic District, however is what gives the HPC purview over any and all alterations to the exterior. It is unnecessary to individually landmark the structure; all needed protections are in place. According to Hudson's preservation law, the county will need to receive a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC before securing permits for any work to the exterior. To protect the interior, the HP law states:

    § 169-6. Criteria for approval of certificate of appropriateness. (A.) In passing on an application for a certificate of appropriateness, the Historic Preservation Commission shall not consider changes to interior spaces unless they are specifically landmarked.

    In re to your question about landmarking the interior:

    § 169-4. Designation of landmarks or historic districts. (A.) The Commission may propose or may receive a proposal for an individual property, structure, park, work of art or statue as a landmark if it:

    (1) Possesses special character or historic or aesthetic interest or value as part of the architectural, cultural, political, economic, or social history of the locality, region, state, or nation; or

    (2) Is identified with historic personages; or

    (3) Is the work of a builder, architect, or designer whose work has significantly influenced an age.

    These are very broad standards - I don't think it would be difficult for you to make a compelling argument to landmark the interior. You, as a citizen, can prepare and present the proposal to landmark the courthouse. There is NOTHING in the HP law that restricts who may propose landmark status to the HPC. After you present your proposal, the law states that:

    C. Notice of a proposed designation shall be sent by certified mail to the owner(s) of the property(ies) proposed for designation, provided that property owners are 10 or fewer in number, describing the property and announcing a public hearing by the Commission to consider the designation. Where the proposed designation involves more than 10 property owners, notice may instead be published at least once in a newspaper of general circulation at least 14 days prior to the date of the public hearing, and a notice by post card shall be sent to each individual property owner so designated at least 14 days prior to the date of the public hearing. Once the Commission has issued notice of a proposed designation, no building permits shall be issued by the Building Inspector until the Commission has made its decision. An aggrieved owner may make application, first to the Commission, and then to the Common Council, for a building permit based upon a proof of lack of historical significance or proof of compliance with the certificate of appropriateness standards.

    And then:

    D. The Commission shall determine if the application is complete and then shall hold a public hearing prior to designation of any landmark or historic district. The Commission, owners, and any interested parties may present testimony or documentary evidence at the hearing, which will become part of a record regarding the historic, architectural, or cultural importance of the proposed landmark or historic district. The record may also contain reports by consultants, public comments, or other evidence offered outside of the hearing. At the conclusion of the public hearing, the Commission shall make a recommendation as to designation of any landmark or historic district within 30 days. This recommendation shall be forwarded to the Common Council, which shall vote on the historic designation within 75 days. The historic designation shall be adopted by a majority vote of the Common Council. The determination shall be made based on the same proof before the Historic Preservation Commission.

    1. The proposed renovations to the Columbia County courthouse came before the Historic Preservation Commission on May 13, 2011. On June 2, 2011, there was a public hearing, and on June 10, 2011, the HPC granted the project a certificate of appropriateness. All of this was reported on "The Gossips of Rivertown."

      The oversight and enforcement falls to the City of Hudson Code Enforcement Office, and sadly, as we have seen in the past, that's not necessarily a guarantee of anything.

      If there were state or federal money being used for the courthouse renovations, the project would be monitored and reviewed by SHPO, in the person of Stacey Matson-Zuvic. But that's not the case, so we have to rely on David Robinson, Commissioner of Public Works for Columbia County, who has, thankfully, shown himself to be someone with enormous respect for the building. My concern is that the Board of Supervisors, who have squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars in the quest for new digs for DSS, may decide to tighten their belts on the courthouse project and not approve having the architects who designed renovation oversee it.