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The East Hill Historic District could be expanding. Bryan McCracken, the city’s historic preservation planner, was in front of the Planning Board to propose extending the northwest boundary of the current district.

According to McCracken, the boundary currently doesn’t follow an established district or best practices, meaning it’s essentially arbitrary. The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission decided to look into the wedge of 19 properties left out of the current historic district located on North Aurora Street, East Court Street and Linn Street. The commission did an intensive survey of the buildings that included research into when they were built and by whom.

“They all appear to reflect the characteristics and historic context of the East Hill Historic District,” McCracken said.

The East Hill Historic District comprises properties built between 1830-1932 with textbook examples of architectural styles of the time. The four homes he showed as an example were second empire style, Greek revival and a craftsman style house.

“Many are associated with locally prominent architects and local figures,” McCracken said of the 19 properties. “Some have a close relationship to the growth of Cornell University.”

While historic preservation is nice in theory, it does often come with extra costs for homeowners. If properties are designated as part of a historic district, their exterior alterations must be regulated, and any proposed change would require either staff review or full Landmarks Preservation Commission review depending on the type and extent of the project. This process could potentially preclude homeowners from adding modern upgrades, or requiring them to use a particular type of material in a renovation that costs more.

There are Landmarks Preservation Commission-recommended guidelines for everything from roofs, patios, parking and drives to fencing, walls, lighting, signs and landscaping.

The next step in expanding the historic district is a public hearing at the May 18 Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting. If it moves on from there, notice would then be given to the Planning Board and the Planning and Economic Development Committee of Common Council (PEDC). The Planning Board’s role is to make sure the expansion wouldn’t negatively impact any goals found in the neighborhood plans of the general comprehensive plan, and prepare a report for the PEDC. If the PEDC is on board, it will go to full Common Council for a final vote. If the PEDC rejects it, the expansion either dies there or can be referred back to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for revision.

There was little comment, though Planning Board Chair Rob Lewis did call it a “fairly small expansion of a well-established historic district.”

There are currently 273 properties in the East Hill Historic District, McCracken said.

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