(UPDATED) Preservation overhaul begins in Rochester

The former Westminster Presbyterian Church on West Main Street is a Building of Historic Value in the City of Rochester. PHOTO BY LAUREN PETRACCA

UPDATE, Tuesday, August 7: the Planning Commission approved the changes by a vote of 4 to 0. The legislation now goes to City Council for final approval.


 Area Variance Text Change (PDF Document)


City officials are considering changing the requirements that must be met before historic buildings can be torn down. Some preservationists are concerned that the administration plans to weaken the protection of those buildings. But Marcia Barry, the city’s director of planning and zoning, says the protections will remain and that the proposed changes (attached) would simply make the process clearer for everyone involved.

The changes may be voted on by the city Planning Commission tonight. The commission’s vote is only a recommendation, however. City Council must vote on the changes.

Currently, the Zoning Board must consider the Preservation Board’s recommendation before it gives permission to tear down a Building of Historic Value in the city. The changes remove the reference to the Preservation Board, but Barry says the board would still be part of the process. Its role will be laid out in forthcoming legislation on the process for designating landmarks in the city, she says.

The proposed legislation also removes a sentence requiring the Zoning Board to consider a handful of conditions before allowing demolition. Barry says the conditions would still apply, but that they would be inherent in the overall question for board members: whether the benefit to the applicant outweighs the impact on the health, safety, and welfare of neighbors and the community.

The Planning Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. in Council chambers at City Hall, 30 Church Street.



  1. It is my understanding that the Planning Commission will NOT vote on this tonight. As of Friday, we received an e-mail that this proposal had been withdrawn and that additional review and community input would take place.

    1. Joan,
      The changes to the landmark designation process have been temporarily withdrawn. But the hearing on the area variances and special permits is indeed happening tonight. I just e-mailed you the text of the changes that Marcia Barry sent to me earlier today.

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