In the past, the mayor has sought recommendations from the Historic Preservation Commission and made his appointments based on those recommendations, but the article reports that Tom Swope, the chair of the HPC, was not informed of the mayor’s call for applicants and was hoping that Voorhees, Rieser, and Thompson would be reappointed. All three have expressed their willingness to continue on the HPC.
Scalera says he is looking for "individuals who are keenly interested in not only historical preservation but also helping people through the process.” Those may be the mayor's requirements, but Hudson's preservation law is quite specific about the qualifications of individual members and the overall makeup of the Historic Preservation Commission. This is Paragraph 169.3.A of the Hudson City Code:
The Commission shall consist of seven members to be appointed, to the extent available in the community, by the Mayor. All new members, but the architect-member, shall be residents of the City of Hudson and remain so throughout their term.The architect-member is the one person on the HPC who, according to the law, does not have to reside in Hudson. This exception was made in the law because the knowledge and expertise of an architect who has made a career of working with old buildings and understands their construction as well as the distinctive features of their design is critical to the work of the HPC, and it might not always be possible to find a person with this expertise residing in Hudson. So the concession was made in the law that a preservation architect may be recruited from elsewhere.
(1) At least one shall be an architect experienced in working with historic buildings; if there is no resident of Hudson who has these credentials and is willing to serve on the Commission, a nonresident may be appointed to the Commission;
(2) At least one shall be an historian;
(3) At least [one] shall be a resident of an historic district;
(4) At least one shall have demonstrated significant interest in and commitment to the field of historic preservation either by involvement in a local historic preservation group, employment, or volunteer activity in the field of historic preservation, or other serious interest in the field;
(5) All members shall have a known interest in historic preservation and architectural development within the City of Hudson;
(6) All members, but the architect-member, shall be residents of the City of Hudson;
(7) The Chairperson of the Planning and Land Use Committee of the Common Council shall be the liaison between the Historic Preservation Commission and the Common Council and shall report to the Common Council regularly on the actions and proposed actions of the Historic Preservation Commission.
Until a few weeks ago, well-known and respected preservation architect Marilyn Kaplan, who lives in Albany, was the architect-member of the HPC. When Kaplan resigned because of scheduling problems, the HPC recommended and the mayor appointed--first to finish out Kaplan's term and then to a full term--Jane Smith, an architect and part-time resident of Hudson whose credentials in preservation architecture don't seem to go beyond the generally held opinion that she, to quote HPC member Nick Haddad, "did a nice job with her own house."
The historian-member of the HPC is important because local and regional history is woven through all of the requirements for individual landmark designation. Quoting from City Code 169.4.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:These requirements are also among those for historic district designation. Presumably with a historian on the HPC such past actions as demolishing Sanford Gifford's house to create a municipal parking lot (the one where the Hudson Farmers' Market is held) or demolishing the building on upper Columbia Street where Martin Van Buren once had his law office to expand the hospital parking lot would not happen in the future.
(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.
The original historian-member of the HPC was City Historian Pat Fenoff. Voorhees and Rieser are both historians. Although neither specializes in Hudson history, both have the conscientious mind-set to ask the right questions and do the needed research. Voorhees is on the board of the Columbia County Historical Society and is knowledgeable about the history of the Dutch in the Hudson Valley.
Item 7 in the list of qualifications for the Historic Preservation Commission may suggest just how little anyone is paying attention to the law. This amendment creating an official liaison between the Historic Preservation Commission and the Common Council was adopted in 2006. In 2008, Rob Perry, then Common Council President, did away with the Planning and Land Use Committee, eliminating too the liaison between the HPC and the Council.
In the Register-Star article, Scalera is quoted as saying, “The commission was established in the first place not only to help preserve historic property but to help people along, and when that commission stops helping people, that commission should be done away with.” The problems that we've seen with the Historic Preservation Commission don't seem to stem from an unwillingness to "help people along." In the Emanuel Lutheran Church fiasco, the HPC seems to have been guilty of trying to be too helpful and too nice.
Instead of making it clear at the outset that they could not grant a certificate of appropriateness to put vinyl siding on a historic church, they set out to help the church board understand why the paint was failing and why vinyl-siding the church wasn't a good idea and to assist them in getting a proper paint job that would last more than a couple of years. The problems arose not from unwillingness to help but from lack of follow-through and poor communication on the part of the HPC and Peter Wurster's apparent penchant for eluding the HPC.
Such problems could be avoided in the future if the HPC simply followed its law, made consistent decisions in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards, and kept written records of their decisions, which they shared with the applicant and the Code Enforcement Officer. The HPC should also be willing to hold special meetings. The Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals schedule special meetings when necessary. Only the HPC has steadfastly maintained that it is impossible to do so, even when a special meeting could facilitate the review process for a particular application or during the construction season when there are many applications before them.