January 12, 2010


City considers expansion of downtown historic district

Boundaries would be expanded to include portions of Port Watson Street, Clinton Avenue

CityBob Ellis/staff photographer
A bicyclist rides across the intersection of Main Street and Clinton Avenue on Monday.

Staff Reporter

Members of the Historic Review Board say they are interested in exploring an expansion of the city’s historic district downtown.
Adam Megivern, director of the Cortland Downtown Partnership, introduced the idea during the board’s monthly meeting Monday morning.
The historic district includes part of Tompkins Street, Main Street from Clinton Avenue to the clock tower building and Star Bistro on south Main Street, and Central Avenue between Main and Church streets. It also includes the Cortland Fire Station on Court Street and the County Courthouse on Church Street.
Cortland County Planning Director Dan Dineen estimated that the district includes 75 to 100 properties in the city.
Megivern said he would like to form a plan to expand the historic district to cover parts of Port Watson Street and Clinton Avenue, starting where the streets intersect with Main Street and extending toward Church Street. He noted that when people are walking on Main Street and turn the corner onto Port Watson Street or Clinton Avenue, they are no longer in the historic district.
Members of the committee told him he should also consider extending the district farther down south Main Street and include Church Street in the proposal.
Megivern plans to attend the committee’s next meeting Feb. 8 and bring more details based on discussions with employees of the State Historic Preservation Office and Cortland-based Thoma Development Consultants, which is working on a comprehensive plan for the city.
The State Historic Preservation Office and the city Historic Review Board would have to approve a decision to expand the historic district. The proposal would also need to be reviewed for a recommendation by the county Planning Board and approved by the city Common Council because it is a zoning amendment, said Dineen, who serves on the Historic Review Board.
In recent years, the historic district has been expanded to include an additional building when a building owner has expressed interest.
Megivern said he thinks it makes more sense to expand the entire district, rather than expanding it one building at a time.
“It cuts down on the amount of work. It’s a decent undertaking to do this, but in the future you don’t have to add a building here and a building there,” Megivern said.
He said that one building owner in an area proposed as part of the historic district would not be able to stop a plan from being approved. He was not sure Monday if a majority of building owners in the proposed areas would have to approve of a proposal for it to go into effect.
Owners of buildings in historic districts are eligible for federal and state tax credits for renovations, as well as grant money from the state and the Downtown Partnership. They are also required to keep their buildings in the style of the original design.


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