by Peter Klose, Esq.
How often have you walked down the sidewalk here in Nyack or in many other communities and wondered aloud to your companion, ‘€œWhy did they allow that green blinking neon sign . . . . or . . . . why can’t that merchant put in floor to ceiling windows.’€ The answer lies within the purview of the Building Department and the community’s Architectural Review Board (or ‘€œARB,’€ for short).
The goal of Nyack’s Comprehensive Master Plan’s is to provide ‘€œa consistent palette of lighting, landscaping, and sidewalks throughout downtown’s public domains.’€ In creating the ARB, the Village Board specifically ‘€œfound’€ that
‘€œmonotonous similarity, striking visual discord, inappropriateness or poor quality of design in the exterior appearance of structures erected, reconstructed or altered in any area in the Village of Nyack adversely affects the desirability of the immediate area and neighboring areas within the community and, by so doing, impairs the benefits of occupancy or use of real property in such areas; impairs the stability and value of both improved and unimproved real property in such areas; prevents the most appropriate development of such areas; produces degeneration of the property in such areas, with attendant deterioration of conditions affecting the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the inhabitants of the community; and destroys a proper relationship between the taxable value of real property in the community and the cost of municipal services provided therefor.’€ [Zoning Code, Section 59-6.2].
Wow, that’s a mouthful. In essence, the ARB exists to give a face, a name and a sounding board to assist residents, shopkeepers, and developers alike to encourage creative solutions to improve the visual appearance of our Village. We all have our view of what the appropriate visual appearance should be, but the law states that the purpose of our ARB is to, ‘€œencourage good qualities of exterior building design and good appearances and to relate such design and appearances to the sites and surroundings of structures, to permit originality and resourcefulness in design.’€
In Nyack, the ARB meets at 7:30 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of every month and is made up of five members appointed by the Board of Trustees. By statute, the members must be residents, specifically qualified by reason of training or experience in architecture, design, building construction, other related business or profession, and one member must be a professional architect licensed to practice in the State of New York. We also aspire to have at least one member who is ‘€œknowledgeable in architectural history, historic building design and construction, and/or local history.’€ [Section 59-6.2].
So, the next time you wonder whether someone has considered the aesthetics of a particular sign, banner, storefront or building project, the answer in Nyack is probably yes, both the Building Department and the ARB. Again, a common theme’€“ we owe it to ourselves, and our dedicated volunteers and neighbors to understand the process and to participate making our community a better place. Join, attend, participate, don’t just gripe.
Peter Klose practices law and lives with his wife and three children in Nyack. His community activities include Chairman of the Planning Board, Director of the River Rowing Association, Nyack Rotary, and Chamber of Commerce. His passions include rowing on the Hudson River, travel, his family, growing tomatoes, and writing about legal issues at www.kloselaw.com and reading email at email@example.com. Peter’s column is published monthly in the Nyack Villager.