The owners of two longtime neglected, vacant houses at 65 and 69 Phila St. are seeking permission to tear down both adjacent buildings in order to build anew. Saratoga Springs should not reward property owners who intentionally neglect their vacant property, particularly houses of architectural significance in historic zones as is the case here.
This request will be heard Wednesday, Dec. 9 by the city’s Design Review Commission. You can put in your 2 cents by emailing Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org by noon Wednesday. Go to the city website to sign up to participate in the meeting by Zoom.
The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation notes both houses were constructed in 1851 in the Italianate style, one with white clapboard, by an architect and builder, and the other in red brick, by a mason. Both are contributing buildings to the East Side Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.
The owners have let the buildings deteriorate since buying them more the 15 and 25 years ago, respectively, and any hardship they now claim is self-imposed.
Years ago, the city denied the owners’ request to turn these two adjacent lots into three. The owners continued to neglect the two houses even as they bought and owned other vacant houses in the city. They have had multiple opportunities to sell the Phila Street properties, as documented by the Preservation Foundation, which even underwrote a structural assessment for serious buyers.
The Preservation Foundation will make the case Wednesday that these building are worth saving and should be reviewed in accordance with the city’s Historic Review Ordinance.
The city will continue to lose structures of historic and architectural significance if property owners are rewarded for their intentional neglect (and, according to the preservation foundation, piecemeal removal of architectural features) and allowed to profit from the land sale for new construction.
Another day, let’s talk about the city’s culpability as rules regarding vacant properties have been ignored with impunity. For now, let’s try to prevent this specific demolition by neglect.