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Clearspeak: Has Cazenovia lost its mojo?

Community Columnist

In many a blues song, the singer hedges his misfortune by exulting that at least: “I’ve got my mojo working.”

“Mojo” can be defined as “a basis for belief in one’s capacity to prevail.” In Mike Meyers’ James Bond spoof, “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” Austin needs to recover his lost mojo because without it he can’t prevent Dr. Evil from destroying Washington, D.C.

Far be it from me to compare developer Dave Muraco to Dr. Evil. But it’s undeniable that his recent success in winning the Cazenovia Town Planning Board’s approval to demolish the historic Zephania Comstock farmhouse, built in 1830, is a significant setback to the cause of preservation.

Since historic preservation is a traditional way Cazenovia defines itself, destruction of a house that has overlooked Cazenovia’s eastern approaches for 180 years raises this question: Has Cazenvoia lost its mojo? Are we as a community any longer able — or willing — to preserve this jewel box of a village?

There are certain fights you have to win, and this was one of them. If you don’t, you’ve served notice that something important has changed — some tectonic plate has shifted.

What happened?

What happened is easy to describe. In an application Town Historian Sara Chevako characterized as “appalling,” developer Muraco, the owner of the property, applied to the town planning board for permission to demolish a farmhouse built 180 years ago. The developer’s Environmental Impact Statement informed the board that his “proposed action” would result in the “razing of the farmhouse,” leaving no trace of it other than the “grass lawn” on which it had for nearly two centuries stood.

What especially appalled many, this writer included, was that Muraco has no particular reason to demolish the farmhouse — no development plan for the newly vacant lot at all. He simply wants to be relieved, his EIS informed us, of the “burden of repairing and maintaining the aging structure.” See “Clearspeak: Wanton Destruction,” in the Jan. 18, 2012 issue of the Cazenovia Republican.

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