Citing a concern with potential legal liabilities and an infringement of homeowner rights, the Ridgewood Village Council was cautious in pursuing a policy to dissuade owners from .
The discussion, held last Wednesday, fell two days before the was ripped apart by a developer, against the wishes of angry preservationists.
Ridgewood's planning board has designated several homes and facilities as locally historic, though the distinction carries with it little weight.
Homeowners of historic properties are currently free to largely do what they wish with their own properties, even if it means turning it to rubble and erecting a McMansion in its place.
To counter such developments, the planning board has requested of the council that the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) be consulted when plans are set in motion to tear down history. The board further asked the council to develop a mechanism that the village be notified, keeping open the window to act for an undetermined amount of time.
"Not that we can prevent its demolition," said Deputy Mayor Al Pucciarelli, who also serves on the planning board. "But rather that if we have some prior notice that the homeowner intends to demolish a historic home – and I'm told we've lost many of them over the years – that maybe, somehow, somewhere, someone can come forward and find a way to persuade the owner not to do that and possibly even make an offer to purchase the home."
Councilman Tom Riche had concerns with handing the HPC broader powers. The committee currently only has regulative authority in the Central Business District.
"Previous councils have stayed away from allowing that extension of the reach because it's always been felt that it would be an infringement upon homeowners' personal rights in terms of what they can and cannot do with their own home," Riche said, adding there may be legal liabilities should the village hold up a sale of homes.
Per the Master Plan, the village is required to compensate the owner of any property if their acquisition of property is held up, Riche said prefacing his statement that he was unsure if such rules would apply in demolition matters.
The council will be shooting the concept back to the planning board for a clearer sense of direction.
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