State Preservation Rep: ‘Time May Be Against You’

FULTON, NY – There may be potential for historic preservation efforts along Broadway on Fulton’s west side. There may not be time, however, to change the potential outcome for the former First Congregational Church.

“Time may be against you,” said Chris Capella-Peters, a regional representative of the NYS Office of Parks & Recreation/State Historic Preservation Office.


Members of the Fulton Common Council met this week with Capella-Peters to discuss potential preservation efforts and pending development that could result in the demolition of the Congregational Church at the corners of West First and Broadway. The session also included Joseph Fiumara of the Fulton Community Development Agency; Barbara Dix and Justin White of the Heritage Foundation of Oswego County, and Jan Mileskey, an elder of the church.

A zone change request that is slated to come before the Fulton Common Council next week is one of the prerequisites to the pending sale of the church and parsonage to Family Video Store. The company plans to take down the church properties, as well as a multi-family and a single-family home on West First Street, to put up a new video store outlet.

The single-family dwelling necessary for the plans is presently zoned as residential property, however. The request to change that to commercial space will be voted on Sept. 2.

Second Ward Alderman David Guyer set up the session with Capella-Peters to find out if there is a way to preserve the church as part of new development and learn about the available protections and funding sources for those types of projects.

Capella-Peters explained that while the church property is historically significant, there is nothing in the works that would prompt her office to step in at this time.

“At this moment, we have no official role,” she said. “We would support reuse instead of demolition and construction. It is so much better to reuse.”

Capella-Peters pointed out that while reuse is more prevalent today, the current plans for the church property are not uncommon.

“It happens everywhere and everyday,” Capella-Peters said.

Absent a proposed use, Capella-Peters discussed potential financial resources generically, such as grants through the state Environmental Protection Fund and matching funds that are available through her office, as well as investment tax credits. Fiumara pointed out that the city has tapped similar funding sources for the transformation of the former Oak Street School site several years ago.
Capella-Peters said while she had not been inside the church, the believes that the building would be part of a collection of properties on Broadway that could win historical recognition.

“The church might merit recognition on its own,” she said. She noted, however, that designation to the national registry of historic sites is more for recognition than it is for protection.

Regarding the video store project specifically, Capella-Peters noted that Fulton will likely lose more in historical value than it will gain if the project moves forward.

“Yes you will have tax dollars,” she said. “But you aren’t creating jobs. What you’re proposing is not what you need more of in this community.”

Mayor Ronald Woodward pointed out that he is a history buff and recognizes the value of historic sites for a community.

“There are other issues here that I don’t think you can discount,” Woodward said. “We don’t own it.”

Woodward said that the city has several beautiful old buildings near the church property that are falling into disrepair and becoming unsound, citing the brick building that collapsed on Broadway last November.

“Fulton is not going to go out and borrow a half million dollars to partner… with your agency (to save the building),” he said.

He pointed out, too, that had the company not included the single-family home that requires a zone change in its plans, Fulton would have no part in the sale at all.

Resident David Mankiewicz, who has spoken publicly against the zone change request and the video store project, acknowledged that the city has little say in what will happen to the church at this point.

The project is not seeking a permit from the state or utilizing state or federal dollars. Capella-Peters pointed out that as long as the sale continues as a private transaction, nothing would trigger a state review.

“We have no desire to force the church to keep the building,” Mankiewicz said.

“They have the final say,” Mankiewicz added. “Nobody is twisting anyone’s arm. It is up to them as the property owner.”

Mileskey explained that once the local church completes its dissolution process, the church will be in the hands of the national conference of the United Church of Christ. Asked if the church could be toured by a developer and architect who specializes in preservation projects, he said he would have to consult with the real estate agent.

“I’ve got a contract (with Family Video Store),” Mileskey said.

Capella-Peters suggested that the city conduct a historical assessment and set down zoning rules and procedures to avoid being caught in similar situations in the future.

“More and more, what makes a community different is its past,” she said. “That uniqueness makes using older buildings (for new development) more attractive.

“It would be worth a hard look in any case,” she said.


  1. This could ultimately be a win-win for both sides, even if one particular side does not feel so at the time. I do not think anyone is “anti-historic”, even those like me who are pro-development, for there are many buildings personally I would like to see saved and rehabilitated for historical value. But the future does need development to survive, we can no longer try to survive as a “little community” like we once could. This is a chance at a whole new beginning for a whole new potential “city with a future” at the same time we can set up guards in place to ensure that historic properties that are fairly good shape in our community, like the other churches becoming vacant, are protected.

    Refer to yesterday’s story in concerning our potential school tax decrease thanks to the Wal-Mart development alone. A potential school tax decrease is FANTASTIC news! We could have more of that as more business comes in, and the special use permit will ensure that development it is not abused. The only fault I find is that Granby is reaping the benefit of the portion of those land taxes that Fulton could have very well enjoyed, had we annexed some land at some point so that the city had more land to offer, but that is a different argument, not to mention hindsight is always 20-20. That is not a stab at Granby, in fact good for Granby, shame on Fulton’s bad past planning.

    The point is this land will go back on the tax roles, land in a prime commercial spot, you reap sales tax, property tax, school tax. Regardless what the jobs pay, which yes believe it or not hard working people will work for 8 or 9 dollars an hour when they don’t have a job or need money. We still win. As far as the comment of this project not creating jobs, development follows development. Ask all those working at Walmart if development creates jobs. I am sure in this present economy they are very happy to have those jobs.

    For the historical side, we can set up policy promoting the protection of other historical properties. In fact, those in the community who truly care about the concept can assist the property owners in actively pursuing historical recognition. For that matter, has anyone even considered approaching the city about taking one of the riverside city parks and constructing a replica of the great Fort Bradstreet? Would it cost money, yes, but you heard it yourself, there are matching grants out there and I would personally volunteer to help collect donations for such a project. It would be an honor, a privilege, and very exciting place, to take my children, who are part of the future of this city, to see such an awesome display.

    There are ways of truly promoting history AND allowing progressiveness in development that will save, and maybe even cultivate this city. I love this city, and as one of those in that age range that are jumping ship, the very fact that I have kept my family here, work here, and praise this little city so much to my colleagues from other areas shows the fact that I have hope for this city, even in the face of the challenges that have befallen us. This can work and both sides can be happy, not to mention the city wins double.

    Thank you all for allowing this rant. We still have a chance to make Fulton a “city with future” before it becomes a “city of the past.”

  2. Let the video store be built it will add jobs, put a tax exempt property on the tax rolls again. The church is not original the steeple is gone the staind glass windows have been replaced and it is an eyesore. If this deal doesn’t go through the taxpayers may eventually be footing the bill to have it demolished and that is not acceptable. Lets make progress in the city instead of holding it back. Tear down the church, put in the new business and lets move on. My only grip is that it is a video store, I would much rather prefer an adult world store or a strip club to be built on the location but we can’t be choosey when businesses are fleeing the area. So lets be thankfull that a business is willing to invest in Fulton which has been stagnante for a while instead of trying to push them away. It’s common sense people either we grow or we wither and die on the vine. Tear down the old dilapitated church!

  3. The Church was at one time beautiful and in some ways still is,but it’s time to move on.It has been said all along that this church might end in the hands of the city and then they will need to do something with it.For us(City) to have to borrow money to fix it or demolish it I don’t see that happening.just look at the old buildings that were torn down downtown years ago and look what we have now.It is sad to see old buildings come down in order to make way for new but we need to do it.When I was younger I went to that church and I hate to see it come down but unless the city or whoever can get grant money to do something with it,I see no choice but to let the new store go in.

  4. Fulton does not need a video store and taking that property is only going to make that part of the city look ugly.

  5. Time has already run out on this issue. The common council had already made up their minds way before they had a hearing on the issue. Why do you think they pulled back their vote on the first night. Also I hope Mark(I want to be your mayor)knows that his words will be used against him when we runs for mayor again. Its very sad that another part of our cities history will be gone again and we will have another empty building to look at down the road.

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