Geneva delays vote on Mill Race Inn's landmark status

The Geneva City Council has postponed to May 7 deciding whether the last remaining bit of the Mill Race Inn complex should be declared a landmark.

Five aldermen want more information about whether the application for landmark status is technically complete after the lawyer for the site's owner Monday night argued it was not and that the council therefore shouldn't even consider it.

Aldermen Craig Maladra, Jeanne McGowan, Robert Swanson, Mike Bruno and Becky Hruby voted to table. Aldermen Richard Marks, Donald Cummings, Jim Radecki and Tara Burghart voted "no." Alderman Dean Kilburg was absent.

The Shodeen Family Foundation owns the limestone building, which was built in 1846. It was used for various commercial and industrial businesses for almost a century. In the 1930s, it was converted to a seasonal tea room called the Mill Race Inn and later surrounded by various additions. In 2011 the restaurant closed, and in 2016 all the other parts were demolished.

The owners applied for a demolition permit in December; a day or so later, resident Fred Zinke applied to have it designated a local historic landmark. Work on the demolition application then came to a halt, per the city's historic-preservation ordinance. The Historic Preservation Commission voted March 20 to recommend making it a landmark. Zinke's wife sits on the commission but did not vote on the matter, as the Zinkes were away on vacation.

The foundation's attorney, Kate McCracken, reiterated several arguments Monday about why the application should not have been considered, including that it gave a legal description of the whole site but not the building. She also said it lacked an applicant's signature.

Zinke did sign the application. McCracken may have been referring to the fact that in his absence in March, another Geneva resident presented Zinke's case to the preservation commission. He designated that same resident to speak to the council Monday because he was recovering from eye surgery.

It will take seven "yes" votes from the city council for the building to be designated a landmark because the owner objects.

If it is designated a landmark, the preservation commission will decide whether the building is so far beyond repair that it can't be saved. Proponents argue that although the building isn't attractive, it is an important example of local industrial buildings of the time and is significant because it was built by early, prominent settlers of Geneva.

The owners argue it has lost significance due to fires and alterations made throughout the years and that the building is too heavy and fragile to be moved.

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  The owner of the last remaining part of the former Mill Race Inn is fighting a proposal to make it a landmark. Mark Black/, 2016
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