Tuesday, July 13, 2010

God Is in the Details

Or is it the Devil?

On Friday morning, representatives of Emanuel Lutheran Church did not show up at the Historic Preservation Commission meeting, which puzzled everyone. Over the twenty-four hours that followed the meeting, Gossips discovered the explanation for their absence.

There's a stipulation in Hudson's preservation law that says if the HPC doesn't act on an application for a certificate of appropriateness within sixty days, the applicant may proceed with the project. The point of this is to encourage the HPC to act on applications in a timely way and to keep projects from being tied up indefinitely waiting for a yea or nay from the HPC. However--and this is important to remember--the clock doesn't start on the sixty days until the HPC receives a formal application and determines that it is complete. The requirements for a completed application are quite extensive and made very specific in the application itself. The HPC does not accept an application until it is complete, and acceptance is voted on.

When Tom Swope, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, contacted Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster about the church back on June 22, Wurster apparently didn't issue a stop-work order as reported here. Instead he looked at the minutes for the October 2009 meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission, where he found no indication that the HPC had denied the church a certificate of appropriateness, and so, because more than sixty days have passed since October 2009, he issued a building permit. The problem with this action is that the minutes also do not indicate that a completed application was submitted and accepted. Instead the minutes simply report that the parish treasurer came to the HPC with fifteen or so pictures showing how the paint was failing on the church and a proposal for covering the existing wood siding and shingles with vinyl.

This lovely church, it would seem, is to be vinyled on a technicality, and Swope, although annoyed that by the fact that the intent of the HPC was ignored by Wurster, seems willing to accept this calamity with an attitude of "We'll know better next time."

Hudson is a very small place. How many "next times" can there be?


  1. Peter and the churches conscious, where is it? Victory is fated for the foul and Tom doesn't smell anything, I'm calling bluff. Other chances? There are two notable wooden churches in Hudson- this involves one of them. 50 percent isn't good enough. Chop the church you ignorant ninnys. We could have put together a fund for painting had we a Board of Architectural Review - with teeth and fight - Boo hoo for Hudson on this one.

  2. code enforcement is out of line...what the heck?

  3. What's the use of having a Preservation board if they can't preserve?

    Richard Cohen tore down a historic structure on Warren under the watch of the preservation and Wurster.

    What a waste of time and energy.

  4. so the Preservation board just turns a blind eye to this?....what's the point of having the board if only certain folks abide by the rules? Why don't we just level warren street and put up a shopping mall and be done with it?

  5. To Anonymous: I think it's unfair to say that the Historic Preservation Commission "just turns a blind eye to this." We really don't know at this point what they will do, but if they are going to raise any formal objection about the fact that the code enforcement officer--who is the only means for enforcing the preservation law--seems more often to take the side of the applicant trying to skirt the law than the HPC trying to follow the law, they will need the support and the encouragement of the community. We need the Historic Preservation Commission; they need a better governmental environment in which to do their jobs.

  6. Carole - the comment I made was based on your quote, "Swope, although annoyed that by the fact that the intent of the HPC was ignored by Wurster, seems willing to accept this calamity with an attitude of "We'll know better next time."
    "We'll know better next time" isn't the tough stance we need from this town to preserve it's historical integrity. Once we lose that, we have nothing.

  7. word has it that wurster notified the mayor prior to approval. anybody bother to
    notify the historical preservation group?

    the little community has quite a few code violations that just sit and sit but this one got some action. go figure

  8. I agree with you, Anonymous, completely. I guess I'm a little sensitive about a criticism, received privately, that I was "flouting the Historic Preservation Commission." Not my intention. I want to make it clear that Tom Swope never actually said, "We'll know better next time." That's just my impression of his response to this.

    I'm reminded of the film Bedazzled--the original 1967 movie with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. The HPC keeps making wishes, and Wurster seems to find the little omission that makes things not turn out the way they're supposed to. Just as Dudley Moore ran out of wishes before he got it right, we could be running out of things to save.