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Clearspeak: Has Cazenovia lost its mojo?

Community Columnist

Roszel also noted the lack of legal “teeth.” Given the absence of mandates protecting the property when Muraco bought it, he thought imposing them now would strip the owner of property rights.

Bowers went further. Without using the phrase, he wondered in effect whether Cazenovia has lost its mojo — its zest for preservation. He said he had carefully reviewed the entire file, compiled over many months, and “was surprised by the lack of public outrage.”

So — where was the community outrage? The record doesn’t reflect much of it. Chevako did her job, providing the board with an extensive history of the Comstock farmhouse. And historic preservation consultant Ted Bartlett made an effective technical argument countering the developer’s assertion that the farmhouse had been so extensively renovated over the years as to fatally compromise its historic value. (But Bartlett’s argument failed to persuade Pratt, an architect, who voted “yes” because he agreed with the developer in this regard.)

And then there was the submission of the Cazenovia Preservation Foundation — the group, one would think, leading the charge, rallying the troops in opposition.

But the CPF limited itself to tepidly citing provisions of the Comprehensive Plan and leaving it at that. This was an ineffectual response — and CPF should have known it would be. Except in a rezoning situation (which this was not) appeals to abstract, hortatory language in a comprehensive plan compel nobody to do anything.

This is so, especially when the developer’s lawyer is aggressively arguing, as he did here, that the “Planning board has no authority to regulate the demolition of buildings” at all. Relying on the Comprehensive Plan to counter this sort of aggressive lawyering was like bringing a knife (and a small one, at that) to a gunfight. CPF had the money to retain counsel and, on behalf of the community, should have – rather than contenting itself with invocation of hortatory language from the Comprehensive Plan.

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