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Double Jeopardy for Historic Rochester Church

July 14th, 2014

The Zoning Board will decide AGAIN whether or not to allow the former Westminster Presbyterian Church at 660 West Main Street to be demolished. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]
“Double Jeopardy” wasn’t invented by Alex Trebek. It’s actually a procedural defense in our system of justice that forbids a defendant from being tried more than once for the same (or similar) charges. Unfortunately this rule doesn’t seem to apply with historic preservation in Rochester. Because the very same owner of this historic church at 660 West Main Street external link will, for a second time, ask the Zoning Board for permission to demolish the structure to make way for a discount store.

Dawn Noto is president of the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association. She was concerned about the demolition plans in March of 2013 when the Zoning Board blocked them the first time. This time Dawn says the conditions are no different and the City should be working with the owner on a plan to rehab the church building instead of entertaining his plan for a second time…

The Zoning Board will decide AGAIN whether or not to allow the former Westminster Presbyterian Church at 660 West Main Street to be demolished. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]
This time the site plan needs three variances.

  1. Demolition of a DBHV – Designated building of Historic Value needs a variance – proposed is demolition for “discount grocery store”. Tenant and a business plan remains a mystery.
  2. To build a 17,922 sq. ft. commercial building (6000 sg. ft. is current code)
  3. To build set back behind parking lot (0′-5′ building setback from sidewalk is current code)

The zoning board will first vote on the demolition variance.

In an online message to Susan B. Anthony neighbors, Dawn Noto said:

Our concerns are the same.
The historic church is structurally sound confirmed with our engineers report done in 2013. It should be re-used.
The SUPER SIZED square box [store] design will permanently impact this historic neighborhood. The 19th century streetscape is largely intact but this [proposed development] would begin a destructive building model that would forever be a detriment to the community.
Traffic patterns and daily delivery vehicles to a very large store will negatively impact the community. A traffic study should be done prior to any approvals.
The property owner owns many commercial properties in the SW and he neglects them. The business model at some of his plaza’s are detrimental to the health of the neighborhood (i.e. Liquor Store at Zebs Plaza, 626 W Main St, opened last year has had a negative impact).
The owner also owes over $40,000 in taxes including a $2,000 water bill. He does not have a Letter of Credit from a bank to show he can even financially pay for demo and rebuild. The City could request one under a Major Site Plan review.
Join us on the 17th to speak you opinion on how this will impact you and your neighborhoods. The SW has come so far, we cannot loose our intact 19th century buildings on W Main St. It’s our gateway and a better plan that reuses the church is needed. The City’s southwest neighborhoods have come so far, we cannot loose our intact 19th century buildings on W Main St. It’s our gateway and a better plan that reuses the church is needed.

In related news, RocSubway has attained the following conceptual drawings from an anonymous source who says they were submitted to the City of Rochester sometime last week…

An design concept to readapt the church and surrounding property into housing will be presented at the Zoning Board hearing this Thursday.

The drawings show what could be a residential adaptive reuse plan for the church and surrounding property with 20 apartments ranging from 700 to 1200 sq. ft.

An design concept to readapt the church and surrounding property into housing will be presented at the Zoning Board hearing this Thursday.
This concept would also put new housing at the rear of the property on New York Street.

An design concept to readapt the church and surrounding property into housing will be presented at the Zoning Board hearing this Thursday.

An design concept to readapt the church and surrounding property into housing will be presented at the Zoning Board hearing this Thursday.
With ample parking in the middle of the property.

An design concept to readapt the church and surrounding property into housing will be presented at the Zoning Board hearing this Thursday.

An design concept to readapt the church and surrounding property into housing will be presented at the Zoning Board hearing this Thursday.

An design concept to readapt the church and surrounding property into housing will be presented at the Zoning Board hearing this Thursday.

An design concept to readapt the church and surrounding property into housing will be presented at the Zoning Board hearing this Thursday.
Whether residential, or mixed use with some commercial, this plan could allow the developer to take advantage of a significant historic tax credit to rehab and re-use the church — and he did admit to the D&C recently external link that he would need help with his taxes.

Attend the Zoning Board Public Hearing

The Zoning Board public hearing is this Thursday (7/17), 12:00pm/noon at City Hall external link room 302A.

If you would like to speak at this hearing please call (585) 428-6526 ahead of the meeting ensure your spot.

If you can’t make the meeting, written comments may be submitted by July 16th, 2014 via email to Jill.Symonds@CityofRochester.gov or:

Jill Symonds
City of Rochester
Bureau of Planning & Zoning
30 Church Street, Room 125B
Rochester, NY 14612

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 14th, 2014 at 8:20 am and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester News, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

31 Responses to “Double Jeopardy for Historic Rochester Church”

  1. Joel Helfrich says:

    Perhaps not “double jeopardy,” but some kind of “time loop” reminiscent of Groundhog Day.

    I like the plans for housing. Great idea/concept. The City should take the buildings by eminent domain (if the owner’s taxes, etc, are so far behind) and give to the neighborhood to implement the above plans. (I dislike the ability to drive through the parcel from Main to New York Street, however.)

  2. Nate says:

    The last go round was the zoning hearing equivalent of a Kangaroo Court.

    At least this time Mr. Maye will get a fair opportunity to make his case.

    The case will, as it should, be decided on the merits.

    It is an important application with clear stakes.

    Let the chips fall where they may.

  3. When the verdict isn’t what you want it’s a Kangaroo Court?

  4. 644 W Main st says:

    This plan will destroy my home. How would you like to step outside to see a concrete wall? How would you like to have an alley next to your property that hides drug deals and prostitution from the authorities but you get to listen to through your fence? How would anyone like to have a giant dumpyer compound next to their favorite chair in the back yard? How would anyone like to be surrounded on all sides by parking lot, traffic, noise, delivery tucks? How would you like to look out of your second floor windows to see a flat roof, and hear the commercial rooftop air handlers come on at whatever hour, or just look out all windows in general to see a concrete wall – this will destroy my home.

  5. Matthew Denker says:

    I like the idea of being able to drive through this lot. Indeed, Rochester has far too many “superblocks” and while Wentworth is not particularly far west, I think these plans would be improved further by just having a public right of way on the west side of the lot. The fourth house could then be transferred to the east side of the lot. I really do think this is an excellent plan even as is, and would be greatly interested in somehow seeing it come to fruition.

  6. Joel Helfrich says:

    @644 West Main: Which plan? Maye’s plan or the one put forth on this blog?

    @Matthew Denker: Putting a street, essentially, where there is not currently a street is a mistake, I feel. It allows for accidents, extra pavement, increased heat island, etc…. Give the people on New York Street more yard space.

  7. Nate says:

    Hey Mike, where in my comments did I say what verdict I wanted? Just talking about a fair shake. The arrogance is striking…..

  8. 644 W Main st says:

    Joel, I meant maye’s plan. Maye’s plan would ruin my home. He spoke today at the zoning board hearing about how the tractor trailers would be pulling in for deliveries 3 times a day directly behind my yard – ewe ewe ewe. I would never be able to use my yard! There would be Mac trucks idling in it all day!
    Btw – we ran out of time. Hearing continues on Monday at 4:00. Rochester subway, you should post my site plan with the commentary!

  9. 644 W Main st says:

    Nate, so tell us what verdict you hope for and why

  10. “Nate” I’m asking you why you’re calling it a “kangaroo court.” The only reason I can think of would be you didn’t like the decision. Were you at that hearing?

  11. Urban Explorer says:

    @Joel Helfrich. Matt Denker is not suggesting to add pavement, just reconfigure what is proposed in the “anonymous” plan to create a better design. I agree with Matt, small blocks (or mid-block cut throughs) are key to walkable urbanism.

    Also, the term “accident” is a biased term. “Crash” or “collision” are less biased. Streets don’t cause crashes, vehicles do.

  12. Urban Explorer says:

    I’m also curious about the “arrogance” that Nate is referring to at the Zoning Board.

  13. Joel Helfrich says:

    You are all bloody arrogant. I am so sick of it. May the humble inherit the Earth. But, seriously, Nate, where is the arrogance? I could come up with a million other words to describe the ways in which the City and its various committees operate, but not “arrogant.”

  14. 644 W Main st says:

    Joel, what do you think should happen to the site?

  15. Joel Helfrich says:

    @644 W. Main St: Feel free to read my comments, numbered 1 and 6 above. I think that some kind of pocket neighborhood idea, like the one outlined in this post, would be perfect. You should work with the neighborhood to see if it can get the City to implement such a plan, with whatever help/idea/suggestions you might have. (I do not want the connecting driveway/street through the property for various reasons, however.)

  16. Joel Helfrich says:

    @Urban Explorer: I agree that mid-block streets can be useful and break up long stretches, but that is hardly a problem in this example. I am not sure that the distance between Jefferson Ave and Wentworth Street is long enough to warrant a cut-through. (Perhaps the cut-through would be better here: http://usa.streetsblog.org/index.php/2013/02/28/sprawl-madness-two-houses-share-backyard-separated-by-7-miles-of-roads/)

    Secondly, adding streets for the benefit of cars is hardly supportive of walkable communities. And given that humans, for the most part, cause “crashes,” it would seem as if we would want to limit the vehicle traffic through the property. Perhaps Bauer Alley could be lengthened instead — or just have access on New York Street and parking next to the church, but without the cut-through.

  17. Joel Helfrich says:

    BTW, it looks as if a developer could fit a good number of additional houses along New York Street, if unused and vacant lots could be included in the plans.

  18. 644 W Main st says:

    Joel, I saw what you wrote, I guess I’m just confused about why you think we are all arrogant when it seems like you agree with the housing proposal or at least something along those lines. I just want to clarify – nobody in this hood is opposed to a grocery store – it’s the breaking of multiple zoning laws that are there for a reason that we have a problem with. I – even though I would prefer to see the church rehabbed, do not feel the need to die on that hill – I’m more concerned about how that space is used after the fact. I don’t think that living nect to a commercial property necessarily has to be annoying, and I rely on the existing zoning laws to ensure that something appropriate goes there.

  19. Joel Helfrich says:

    @644 W. Main St: If you read again what I wrote, you will see that I am wholeheartedly and completely on your side. It is Nate who thinks that there is a level of arrogance in the case of developer Maye. I am still trying to learn what he meant by that comment.

  20. 644 W Main st says:

    Oh I beg your pardon. I have mixed you up! Well that
    Explains it and I guess I’d better be more careful when I’m reading on my little phone.

  21. Urban Explorer says:

    This is a kangaroo court:
    http://citypaper.net/article.php?Why-Philly-s-zoning-board-is-still-so-dysfunctional-20734

    Compared to Philadelphia (and Buffalo, which I’ve personally witnessed), Rochester’s ZBA is a paragon of objective professionalism. That is, it was until Monday evening, when it devolved into arguing amongst the members and baseless allegations of racism being flung about.

  22. What is going on with this building specially with the recent accusations of Family Dollar by Dollar Tree how many dollar stores does one inner city need, specially in a Upstate City like Rochester. The Northeast Cities, dollar stores pop up like locust however Upstate doesn’t exhibit the same growth. You’ll hate to see this building fall just to construct a dollar store that becomes a “while elephant” building once these stores go under and its only a matter of time when these stores do go under as they always do.

  23. 644 W Main st says:

    The exciting conclusion (hopefully) coming on August 13th. Hearing continues at 9:00am.

  24. Malcolm Kelley says:

    The church is in rough shape, admittedly. It is not anything, however, that cannot be fixed. My suggestion is that everyone begin to call the City — phone 311 — to complain about the dilapidated state of both properties at 660 West Main Street. The house is in particularly rough shape. Drive by, take a photo, and send it to this blog.

    I also notice from the online property information that Maye owes the City of Rochester $33,413.99 in back taxes (including fines) and has another payment due tomorrow for $2327.83, which I assume will not be paid.

    How do we expect developer/slumlord Maye to get any project off the ground when he is so far behind on taxes?

    I think that these points must be made now and to the City at the hearing on August 13th.

  25. Having read the other comments, I must say that YES, Mr Mayes is very arrogant in his demeanor. I also reside near this structure and of all things why doesn’t anyone suggest rehabbing it back to a Church again?
    Well first, no matter what, we must save it from demolition. He can tear down the old house on the property no problem. The Church structure is savable and I believe that the community can rally around saving it, if organized properly. (15 second story on the local news is not enough)

  26. Patrick says:

    Looks like we’ve got another Dollar General coming in to add to the charm of our city… Assuming Mr. Mayes can ever pay off his taxes and get approved for funding…

  27. Is that before or after Mayes finishing lining their pockets and stomachs? It’s messed up they played the race card today AND Mayes friend was allowed to speak but I wasn’t allowed as I didn’t know about prior meetings because Mayes wanted it all hush hush what he is doing

  28. 644 W Main st says:

    I am so sad

  29. @644 all you can do is pray that he does NOT meet the requirements and HE is forced to sell the property

  30. Malcolm says:

    Latest bill = $33,686.79. Mayes did not pay the taxes at the end of July. Why hasn’t the City started to take the buildings?

    Can someone describe what requirements Mayes has? Is it to secure funding, pay off his taxes, etc? He would also have to have the building rezoned, correct?

  31. Malcolm says:

    The questions still remain regarding Mayes’s tax debts and the maintenance of the church and adjacent property….

    Maye still owes: $42,156.76.

    The City of Rochester should have taken this property long ago and land banked it. What a shame! Here again, the City of Rochester doing nothing to protect the neighborhood residents and City residents who could have turned the church into something useful — and built on the forthcoming redevelopment of nearby Bulls Head….

    Suspicious fire:

    http://www.rochestercitynewspaper.com/rochester/now-what/Content?oid=2580279

    and

    http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2015/06/26/church-fire-rochester/29319857/


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