City Council and Preservation Chair Split | Greene County
DURHAM – Patrick Ciccone, the former chairman of Durham City’s Historic Preservation Committee, has said he was not reappointed after filing a sworn affidavit in a lawsuit against the city council and a housing development project in the city.
The lawsuit was filed in New York State Supreme Court in November by Cornwallville Residents for Rural Preservation, a group tied to a development the Bosque Development Corporation is proposing to build in the historic neighborhood of Cornwallville.
Durham City Supervisor Shawn Marriott sent a letter to then-Speaker Ciccone on February 27 informing him that his term on the Durham Historic Preservation Committee had expired at the end of 2019 .
According to the city, due to the pandemic and additional factors, although Ciccone was not reappointed, he was allowed to continue as president as a survivor for the past two years.
“Effective immediately, this maintenance status will not continue and you will not be reappointed,” according to the letter. “Please immediately return all documents related to the city and the DHPC, etc., to the town hall within 24 hours.”
In a letter back to Marriott dated Feb. 27, Ciccone informed the supervisor that he would comply with the city’s request.
“I note that the remaining five members of the commission as presently constituted fulfill the disparate requirements of expertise in various fields, as required by the 1989 Act, and that any person appointed to fill a vacant post must meet to the same standards of relevant professional qualifications,” Ciccone wrote.
At a March 1 city council workshop meeting, Marriott said he could not speak publicly about Ciccone’s departure from the council, a stance he reiterated on Monday.
“I can confirm that he has not been reappointed to this position,” Marriott said. “He was not fired, he was not reappointed as president. This was due to staffing issues which I cannot discuss.
Ciccone disagreed with the supervisor’s categorization of the matter as a personnel issue.
“I was not a city employee,” he said. “I was an expert appointed to this commission. The city openly discusses all dates in public, so they can’t hide behind calling it a staff thing.
Ciccone was not compensated by the city for his service on the historical commission.
On October 13, the Preservation Commission submitted a letter to Marriott with the discovery of the commission’s historic impact on the proposed 12-home development project in Bosque.
In the letter, written by Ciccone on behalf of the commission, he noted that the six members of the committee were unanimous in their conclusions.
“Bosque’s proposal is unique in its scale and potential to change development patterns, not just in historic Cornwallville, but in the city itself,” according to the letter. “If fully completed and sold at the prices envisaged, it would add 12 high-end homes and three agricultural structures to Durham’s tax rolls, a hugely positive outcome for the town. If successful, it would also open the door to further such developments, making the careful planning of this project critical as a precedent.
The commission notes in the letter that “The DHPC is concerned that the proposal – whatever the developer’s aspirations – will, in its current design and layout, be a typical large-lot development, and therefore out of character with the town-designated Cornwallville Historic District.
Ciccone said the city council ignored the letter when it was submitted by the commission.
“We had a letter of conclusions which was unanimously accepted by all members of the commission,” Ciccone said. “The city council completely ignored it. They didn’t even talk about receiving it.
Ciccone later submitted a sworn affidavit in the Cornwallville Residents’ Rural Preservation Trial.
“City council basically had the ostrich approach of completely ignoring the findings,” he said. “I ended up personally submitting, not in my official responsibilities, an affidavit in the Section 78 petition. I got legal advice that it was an OK thing to do. Because I thought it was more or less illegal, not in a criminal sense, for the city to ignore a letter of findings from any interested agency, but especially from its own Historic Preservation Commission This litigation is ongoing.
In the affidavit, Ciccone said that in its findings, the DHPC concluded that the existing historic integrity of the Cornwallville Historic District rests on the relationship between the Central Hamlet and its surrounding rural lands, which the commission found would be severed. by the Bosque subdivision.
Ciccone said he believed the affidavit led to the city informing him that he would not be reappointed to the historical commission.
“Whatever is in the termination, it is clear that it is only retaliation for doing this,” he said. “I am awaiting news of this, but three of the five remaining members of the commission will resign in protest.”
Ciccone declined to name any commission members who might resign following his exit from the commission.
Ciccone serves as vice chairman of the New York State Preservation League Board of Directors. He is also an author and consultant in historic real estate and promoter of major projects.
The Cornwallville Residents for Rural Preservation lawsuit against the City Council and the Bosque Development Company seeks to overturn a negative statement issued by Durham City Council on October 27. The organization is asking the court to rule that an environmental impact statement should be prepared that would examine the impacts of the proposed housing development.