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Eyeing historic boundaries

Between heated discussions about the state of finances in Spa City government, a debate of a different sort has taken center stage at City Council meetings, and on the blogosphere and opinion pages.

The council is expected to act on a demolition moratorium at its Tuesday, July 7, meeting, which would apply to individual or contribution structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If passed, the city would hold off on granting any demolition permits for such buildings until February of next year.

The city already has its own historic zoning district roughly bordering Broadway, Union Street and the surrounding neighborhoods. Buildings in this district are protected by city law that states any owner seeking to make any exterior changes, erect a sign, build or demolish a property must receive approval from the Design Review Commission, a seven-member panel that meets twice a month.

Buildings designated on the National Register of Historic Places are not privy to such review. Proponents of the moratorium would like to see contributing structures " defined as contributing significantly to the character of the area through architectural or historical means " placed in the city's historic zoning district. Opponents, however, say the moratorium is abridging the property rights of the homeowner who kicked the discussion off in the first place.

A tale of one home

The impetus for the moratorium is a building at 23 Greenfield Ave. The 1865 brick home is not in the city's historic district, but is listed as a contributing structure to one of the several National Register of Historic Places districts in the city.

The building was sold on May 4 to a limited liability company for an undisclosed amount. The principal of the 23 Greenfield LLC was later identified as Ronald Riggi, who owns the neighboring property, along with his wife, Michele. The couple is prominent in the city's social scene. Later that month, they filed for a demolition permit with the city's building department.

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