Pine Hill mulls historic district designation

By Jay Braman Jr.
The process to consider having the hamlet of Pine Hill named an historic district has begun.
While nothing has been decided yet, the first meeting to investigate the idea was held last Thursday in the hamlet’s community center, where the center’s executive director, James Krueger, explained how things will go.
“The time is right to begin this process,” Krueger told the 20 or more residents in attendance. “Next year our streets will be torn up to retrofit a water drainage system. When this is done there are plans for repaving our streets and, finally, for proper sidewalks and designated parking, including redoing the parking lot which is in dire need of maintenance.”
Krueger was joined by Erin Tobin of the Preservation League of New York State, who explained that Pine Hill would be an historic district only if that is what the people wanted.
“At least 50 percent of the community must support the designation,” she said.
Tobin noted that there are many misconceptions about such a designation, such as people not being allowed to do renovations to their historic structures. A design commission would need to be assembled, however, to ensure that renovations are compatible with the district.
There are also many tax breaks available for renovation and repair work on private structures within historic districts, she said, noting that Governor Paterson just signed a new rehabilitation tax credit law just last week.
That law, she said, provides more effective incentives and program features for developers and municipalities seeking to rehabilitate historic buildings. It will also foster new private and federal investment where it is most needed, she said, namely economically distressed downtowns and commercial districts, main streets, and older residential neighborhoods.
Krueger said he invited the community to consider the historic designation because it is a proactive way to approach the hamlet’s future.
“What this effort is inspired by is a strong desire to pull the community together and to begin exploring the things that we can accomplish for our hamlet, both to protect its past- a past that can still be seen and felt as you walk it’s streets- and to carry it into the future,” he said. “If we are to do this we must do it in a way that is mindful, focused, motivated by our love for the place rather than political agendas, and directed by those who live and work here.”