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Town to Speak to School About Melbourne Farmhouse

The Yorktown Town Board has decided to draft a letter to the school district asking for them to take a second look into the issue of the Melbourne Farmhouse .

The issue has arisen because the school board has plans to demolish the building while community members want to see the house preserved as a historical landmark.

Supervisor Susan Siegel said the necessary steps to have the building preserved as a landmark would first begin with forming a landmarks preservation committee. The commission would have to make a recommendation to the board to preserve the landmark and would then have to discuss the proposed designation with the property owners, who in this case is the Yorktown School District.

“But right now we can’t go to step two because we haven’t done step one,” Siegel said.

Siegel explained there was previously a landmarks preservation commission, but all members resigned years ago. The board has publicized their desire to form another committee and once that step is completed the commission can then make their recommendations to the board.

Councilman Nick Bianco said he was in favor of having the board send a letter to the school district asking them to reconsider, but was against the idea that the board could purchase the property and then be responsible for fixing it up.

“I have no problem in calling the district or writing a letter to the school district to see if they would take a second look because we do have some community support,” he  said. “But please don’t let us buy it for a dollar and spend money [fixing it] because we can’t, we don’t have it.”

Councilman Terrence Murphy explained that in two separate phone conversations he’s had with school board members, time is running out.

“They pretty much said that they’re in the 11th-and-a-half hour,” Murphy said.

Councilman Jim Martorano urged the formation of the commission so that at least other steps could be taken.

“…so let’s form a committee immediately, you can’t just let this happen and the excuse is ‘well we never had a committee’,” he said.

The board also discussed the issue of whether or not they could declare the house a historic landmark even if the school rejects the proposal. Siegel said her interpretation of the law is the town could do so, if they decided to landmark it.

“The way I read it, let’s say the property owner does not want the designation, the Town Board will have to hold a public hearing, and still if we wanted to we can say well we believe that this property should be designated as a historic thing,” she said.

Previously when the issue had risen, Martorano had opposed landmarking the house not because he was necessarily against the landmarking itself, but because it would take rights away from the property owner.

Martorano said the issue at the time was “whether or not the town could force a land owner against their will to landmark it. "I felt that the town should not be able to do that, that the landowners rights should be paramount over the right of the municipality, that was my opinion at the time.”

Without a commission to recommend making the farmhouse historic or not, the board passed a resolution allowing Siegel to send a letter to the school district to at least ask them to consider taking another look into the project.

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