Sunday, December 16, 2012

Signs of Change

In her complaint that, as a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, she had been singled out for enforcement action when she failed to get a certificate of appropriateness for her sign on Warren Street, Peggy Polenberg, backed up by her husband, Myron, cited other businesses in the city--more than thirty, they said--with signs that had gone up without "erection permits" or certificates of appropriateness. When the issue was discussed at a special meeting of the HPC on November 30, it was not clear what action, if any, the City, through the Code Enforcement Office, might take about this widespread circumvention of the law. On Friday, December 14, code enforcement officer Peter Wurster had the answer.

Wurster explained that the mayor and the city attorney have asked him to contact all the businesses whose signs went up without benefit of review by the Code Enforcement Office or, if located in a historic district, by the Historic Preservation Commission to let them know that they are in violation of city code and to ask them, after the fact, to apply for an erection permit and, if necessary, a certificate of appropriateness. City attorney Cheryl Roberts is, Wurster said, drafting the letter. 

This announcement caused HPC member Phil Forman to worry about a "process logjam" and to wonder how the HPC could "streamline the process." Wurster promised to "stagger the mailings," assuring the HPC that "I won't inundate you with fifty [applications for certificates of appropriateness] at once." HPC member Tony Thompson reasonably dispelled the anxiety by saying, "Since we know there are no egregious problems [with the signs], this can be handled very efficiently."


  1. Insane. Signs are part of doing business. This sign in the photograph looks fine. If Preservation Committees want complete control tell them to start buying the buildings or pay the taxes...................

  2. Is it really insane for a community to decide that one of its largest & most precious economic engines receive a modicum of protection from its local government? Because while signs may be part of doing business, preservation is a part of the reason why business is done here at all.

  3. Retroactive compliance enforcement? How far back shall we look for errors and omissions?
    It might be wise to check with sign installers who advised no permit was necessary. Nor did they apparently check to see if a permit was issued prior to installing their sign for a shop owner.

  4. Mr. Draiss, you have missed the point. These businesses operate in our Historic Preservation District and as such, are bound to a code. That is not an opinion, nor is it an agenda. It is a fact.

    It is also sensible: the code preserves the appeal of Warren Street; the appeal in turn directly benefits the businesses.

    However, the code only works if enforced. In our case, by a committee. Judging from the looks of Warren Street, and the number of people flocking to enjoy it (and shop along it)...the committee is doing a fine job.

    If a business owner thinks the code is insane, then he or she can set up shop elsewhere. Greenport is only a couple miles away, and is an apt example of what happens when business owners decide what "looks fine" and what doesn't.

    The bottom line is, a business can't reap the benefits of our rules while cherry picking which ones to follow.

  5. HPC is Historic Preservation Commission.- not committee. SEE and go to link:
    § 169-3 Historic Preservation Commission.
    There is hereby created a Commission to be known as the "Historic Preservation Commission."
    § 169-1 Purpose.
    It is hereby declared, as a matter of public policy,that the protection, enhancement, and perpetuation of landmarks and historic districts are necessary to promote the economic, cultural, educational, and general welfare of the public,inasmuch as the identity of a people is founded on its past,
    and inasmuch as the City of Hudson has many significant historic, architectural,
    and cultural resources which constitute its heritage, this chapter is intended to....
    § 169-5 Certificate of appropriateness for alteration, demolition, or new construction.
    [Amended 6-15-2010 by L.L. No. 3-2010]
    A certificate of appropriateness is required to carry out any exterior alteration, additions, restoration, reconstruction,
    demolition, new construction, or moving of a landmark or property within an historic district, or to make any material change in the appearance of such a property or its windows, or install or move a satellite dish.
    This certificate is to be obtained prior to obtaining a building permit.
    A certificate of appropriateness must be obtained even if a building permit is not required.
    Noncontributing properties within an historic district must also follow the same procedure.
    (This applies to SIGNS)
    An application for a certificate of appropriateness for the alteration or addition of a sign in an historic district or associated with a landmark may only be submitted to the Historic Preservation Commission after issuance by the Building Inspector of an erection permit pursuant to Chapter 244.
    HPC has no power to enforce anything, unlike most LANDMARK COMMISSIONS Nationwide.
    The Building Dept. is the only City Agency that
    can issue ,enforce, or revoke BLDG. Permits, for all of the City of Hudson.Historic or not.

    [ "Sign Ordinance of the City of Hudson"is located under]
    § 244-3 Permit required.
    It shall be unlawful for any person to erect, repair, alter or relocate within the City of Hudson any sign or other advertising structure, as defined in this chapter, without first obtaining a permit
    from the Building Inspector and making payment of the fee required by § 244-7.

    § 244-11 Maintenance standards.
    All signs, together with their supports, braces, guys and anchors, shall be kept in good repair. The owner of any sign, as defined and regulated by this chapter,shall be required to have properly painted at least once every two years,or sooner, to prevent corrosion, all parts and supports of the sign
    , unless the same are galvanized or otherwise treated to prevent rust.
    City of Hudson Building and Fire Safety Codes
    They can be more stringent but not less.

  6. What is interesting in this situation, is the main work load,will not be on HPC,
    as they only need to decide if sign is appropriate for Historic District,
    per parameters spelled out in HPC.,Code,
    to issue certificate of appropriateness, to Bldg. Dept.
    It then falls to Bldg. Dept to issue final permit and collect fee/fines.
    Prior to HPC even looking at SIGNS-Historic appropriateness- design-wise,
    SIGN had to be approved by Bldg. Dept to meet CODE requirements BY LAW,for public safety,
    that applies to ANY SIGN to be erected anywhere in City of Hudson.

    According to Ms. Polenberg,she knows of
    30+ signs ,just in Historic Districts that retroactively need to be inspected/approved and , at minimum ,owe permit fees.HPC does not charge fees,for a certificate of appropriateness.
    This does not include signs,that required permits/fees and were erected ,in rest of City of Hudson,which should have been done in the first place -by LAW
    NOW Bldg.Dept. has been asked by City Attorney and Mayor
    "to contact all the businesses whose signs went up without benefit of review by the Code Enforcement Office or, if located in a historic district,by the Historic Preservation Commission to let them know that they are in violation of city code and to ask them, after the fact, to apply for an erection permit and,
    if necessary, a certificate of appropriateness".

    This was all brought on,by Ms.Polenberg-
    a new member,appointed by Mayor Hallenbeck to HPC.It was Ms.Polenberg,that erected a sign,without BLDG. PERMIT a findable offense
    and then because her Bldg. is in an Historic District,Bldg. Dept needed to refer the proposed design to HPC after BLDG. DEPT.'S CODE approval,to get a certificate of appropriateness from HPC-which she was a member of at the time.
    And then go back to BLDG. DEPT. for issue of permit/pay fee
    Apparently,Ms. Polenberg did not comply with any of this.
    If she didn't know any that,or thought she was above the very laws she was appointed by Mayor Hallenbeck to protect, than is would seem that Ms. Polenberg is not an appropriate person to be on HPC to represent the citizens of Hudson and the Laws that protect our Historic Districts and Buildings.

    All that is being discussed here, is CODES & PERMITS FOR SIGNS,Historic District or not........what else is being allowed to slide, that could endanger the public?

  7. Hopefully this sign issue includes the new liquor store on greene street.