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Yorktown Landmarks Preservation Board Delayed Over 11th Hour Agenda Items

YORKTOWN, N.Y. -- The reinstatement of the Landmarks Preservation Board was delayed this week after Supervisor Michael Grace was criticized for adding proposed appointments and other items to the agenda without giving the public and some town board members sufficient notice.

The seven residents slated to be appointed to the volunteer committee, which has been dormant since past members resigned in 2007 after their recommendation to landmark the Old Stone Church on Route 6 was denied by the town board, did not appear on the online agenda until about 5 p.m. Tuesday, just a few hours before the 7:30 p.m. public meeting.

"This is a practice that has been going on," Council member Nick Bianco said. "This is not a one person board. I have not been blindsided like this in the last 16 years. I've never seen an administration like this. It's helter skelter."

Mark Michaels, a former Landmarks Preservation Board member who stepped down five years ago, raised concerns about the 11th hour additions. He was also concerned about Thomas DeChiaro owner of the Old St. George's Winery, being suggested for the new committee. DeChiaro objected to the former Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church building being landmarked.

"This is not fair to the public. It's very problematic," Michaels said.

Grace, a former town attorney who started his two-year term as supervisor in January, contended that resurrecting the Landmarks Preservation Board had been scheduled for a vote "for a week," adding "some things come up at the last minute."

Later in the meeting, an official vote on the committee members was tabled to give the board a few weeks to review the town's current Landmark Preservation Law, which gives the town board authority to designate a structure a landmark without the owner's consent, a stipulation opposed by Grace and Council member Terrence Murphy.

"I don't want government telling me what I can do with my property," Grace said.

DeChiaro said New York state had already landmarked the Old Stone Church and it was close to getting national landmark status. He noted neither the state nor federal government restricts property owner's use.

"They encourage it but they don't force it," DeChiaro said.

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