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Village of Skaneateles passes law to reduce size of HLPC

Construction workers remove dirt on Friday, March 29, that was excavated during drilling 850-foot holes pipes sticking out of ground) for the geothermal energy system to be built in the new village hall on Fennell Street.

Construction workers remove dirt on Friday, March 29, that was excavated during drilling 850-foot holes pipes sticking out of ground) for the geothermal energy system to be built in the new village hall on Fennell Street. Joe Genco

The Skaeneateles village board voted unanimously to pass local law 1 of 2013 at its March 28 meeting, though many of the changes it initially proposed were not included in the bill.

The new law reduces the size of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission to five members and adds the words “to the extent practicable,” meaning the board is only obligated to appoint five members when there are qualified candidates available, Trustee Mary Sennett said.

The bill, which was sponsored by Sennett, was originally made public by the board in February. At a public hearing about the bill on March 14, many residents spoke against the provisions of the bill to make the HLPC “advisory only” and take away its power to hold public hearings.

The original version of the bill also included a residency requirement for commission members, but that was removed prior to the public hearing out of concern that is could be considered unconstitutional.

In light of the comments and concerns raised at the public hearing and submitted in writing, the board decided to remove all changes other than reducing the size of the HLPC at a work session on Feb. 19.

The bill was passed just in time for the changes to go into effect for this year. The village will hold its annual meeting on Monday, April 1 at which it makes appointments, including HLPC members, who serve one-year terms.

To be qualified to sit on the HLPC, individuals should have some experience or background in architecture or history, Sennett said. This requirement is at the discretion of the board and mayor, but was made more explicit with the addition of “to the extent practicable,” to the regulations for the commission.

The HLPC is an appointed committee whose purpose is for the “protection, enhancement, perpetuation and preservation” of the village’s historic district, according to the law.

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