Chronnology and documentation of
Rowland's campaign to:
demolish our village-owned post
re-design the downtown parking lot
to suit her needs,
destroy easy handicapped
accessibility to our postal facility,
and finally gain complete control
of Aurora's village center,
all while flouting the requirements
of the National Historic Preservation Act.
In the early spring, Pleasant Rowland's representatives proposed to
terrace and expand the parking lot in the center of the Aurora as part
of her Inn / Market
project. (The lot is located between the Post Office and a small
wooden building that was moved a bit south in order to errect Rowland’s
large new Market. That move, along with her new delivery drives to the
Inn and Market, would shrink the parking lot. So the original parking
lot "improvement" was planned to off-set the loss of parking spaces
caused by the Inn / Market project.)
At a subsequent Planning Board meeting attended by Rowland’s
representative Jay Woolford, Aurora resident Helen Theimer pointed out
that the proposed changes in the parking lot would necessitate a
renegotiation of a lease agreement with the United States Postal
Service, since the USPS rented some of the lot’s parking spaces. Such a
negotiation with a federal agency would trigger a Section 106 Review of
the Inn / Market project in our National Historic Register District by
the State Historic Preservation Office.
When Woolford learned about the USPS lease, the plan to expand and
terrace the parking lot was withdrawn from Rowland’s proposal to
totally gut and partially demolish the remarkably intact 1833 Aurora
Inn and completely destroy the 1926 Market. The destruction of those
historic properties was then able to move ahead without a Section 106
The full Environmental Assessment Form for the Inn / Market project
submitted by the Rowland's representatives in May states that the lot
had been segmented from the rest of the development, saying "parking to
be provided in another project."
(On June 1st of 2001, Rowland purchased the village's Old School House
for $350,000, reportedly for theAurora Foundation LLC.
Originally, this commercial development corporation was presented to
the public as a "partnership" between Rowland and Wells College, but
later it was described to the Internal Revenue Service as a "wholly
owned subsidiary" of Rowland's privately owned foundation.)
During the winter of 2002, Rowland’s devastation of
irreplaceable historic buildings in our National Register Historic
District proceeded without a Section 106 Review or any accountability
to the National Historic Preservation Act. The State Historic
Preservation Office determined that the Inn / Market project would have
a significant, irreversible and extreme adverse impact.
But, in the absence of a Section 106 Review, the SHPO was unable to
modify the project in any way, and the developer repeatedly refused to consult
with state and national preservation groups.
After opening a new hotel in 5/03 which preserved nothing but part of
the front facade of the 1833 Aurora Inn, Rowland turned her attention
again to the parking lot. An expanded green-space next to the
neighboring wooden building which she moved towards the lot encroached
more than originally planned on the parking lot. So she re-introduced
her original proposal to terrace and expand the parking lot, but this
time the lot's "improvement" would require the demolition of our
village-owned post office building to provide more room for the parking
lot. Our postal facility, she insisted, would be moved into the Old
1901 School House (which she had purchased for her development
In January, representatives of the USPS Northeast Regional Office came
to Aurora at the invitation of the Village Board to hear from Rowland's
representatives about her proposal for a new post office location. The
USPS was apparently under the mistaken impression that the plan
originated with the Village Board, and did not seem to fully understand
Rowland’s role as the project’s commercial developer and promoter. At
that time, the USPS determined that our current facility was perfectly adequate. The USPS
might consider relocation at the village’s request, they said, but
relocation would not be required by the USPS.
In fact, according to Aurora Planning Board Minutes of February 2004,
the Mayor reported that the USPS "expressed surprise" at the Village’s
inquiry about relocation.
But in the first of a series of mixed signals
from the USPS, Aurora Postmaster Dave Kulakowski soon thereafter told
the local newspaper that the USPS Northeast Office had given
"preliminary approval" of the relocation.
The paper also reported in that same March 23, 2004 article that the
Old School Building was being gutted by Rowland’s development
corporation in anticipation of it being used for a new Post Office.
Locals watched in dismay as a dumpster filled with historic
architectural artifacts from the Old School's interior. Workmen on the
job cheerfully announced they were making space for a new post office.
Important: interior elements of the Old School were destroyed before a
Section 106 Review by the State Historic Preservation Office.
In June, Paul Senk, Real Estate Manager for the USPS Northeast Region,
asserted that no approval had been given for relocation. But in October
2004, the USPS unexpectedly called a public hearing in Aurora, during
which USPS Real Estate Specialist William Moncrief strenuously promoted
Pleasant Rowland's relocation plan, and gave residents the distinct
impression the project was a "done deal." There was some confusion as
to whether he intended this hearing to begin a 30-day public comment period.
Nevertheless a few days later he initiated a Section 106
Review with the State Historic Preservation Office.
On November 19, 2004, the State Historic Preservation Office provided official comments
for the Section 106, concluding that the developer had quite probably
engaged in foreclosure, segmentation and anticipatory demolition under
Section 110(K) the National Historic Preservation Act (by the
anticipatory gutting of the Old School and the avoidance of a Section
106 Review of the Inn / Market project). Such activity would prohibit
the USPS from collaborating with the developer without the Advisory
Council on Historic Preservation.
About a week later, the National Trust
for Historic Preservation asked the USPS to include the Trust in the
Section 106 Review for the Aurora Post Office relocation project. Paul
Senk, the USPS Real Estate Manager for the Northeast Region responded in
December indicating that there was no Section 106 Review underway! He
promised to include the Trust "if and when" one was undertaken.
(Only one Section 106 Review can be undertaken for a project. The
official 30-day P.O. review was completed in November 2004. But the
following month, the USPS essentially denied it had taken place. Was
this because the USPS disliked the findings of the State Historic
Although the Section 106 Review he initiated had been disavowed by
Senk, Moncrief spoke with Aurora’s Mayor in February. According to the
Mayor's report to the Village Board, Moncrief told the Mayor that the
USPS would make a decision on relocation in the next three to four
weeks. Numerous attempts
to ascertain the status of the USPS approval process failed to get a
any response. The public continued to express concern thoughout the
spring and summer.
In July, USPS officials met privately with Village Trustees. As was the
case in January 2004, the public was not notified of or invited to
attend this meeting.
Then, in September, Senk tried to accelerate the process. He wrote our Mayor on
9/13/05 -- and copied none of the interested parties -- that he had
decided to relocate our post office based on previously undisclosed but
newly asserted USPS requirements, and disavowed the need for a
previously promised public hearing and denied the public's right to
comment on the project under Section 106. Many saw this as evidence
that the USPS had caved to an ultimatum from billionaire Rowland. Senk
said he would advertise for a new location immediately. Residents
protested vigorously, as did the State Historic Preservation
During the fall of 2005, the Village Board went into closed executive
session several times without giving a reason -- which is a violation
of the NYS Open Government Law.
In December 2005, the Village Board held a special meeting special
meeting to approve a "Memorandum of Understanding" which had been the
subject of its illegally
It turns out that Rowland so desperately wants our village-owned P.O.
building destroyed to expand her corporation's parking lot that she
made our Village Trustees an offer they (foolishly) felt they could not
refuse. She convinced Wells College to offer some lovely but useless
lakefront to the Village if and when we demolish our post office
building. In exchange for the pledge of this undevelopable land, the
Village Board -- which had not yet approved the relocation scheme --
voted on 12/29/05 to demolish our P.O. under the "M.O.U." if the USPS
agreed to the relocation, in the hope that someday this promised land
could somehow be turned into a lakefront park.
In February, Aurora Postmaster Dave Kulakowski continued to push for the relocation,
while Senk apparently had put on the brakes. (Senk had not moved ahead
with the promised solicitation for a new location the previous
September.) Kulakowski then suddenly departed for another
In March, in order to meet a deadline set by Rowland in the M.O.U., our
Planning Board and Community Preservation Panel approved her parking
lot and Post Office plans, even though Rowland's designs had not been
accepted by the USPS and very serious concerns were raised about handicapped accessibility.
In April 2006, Senk wrote an open letter to the
community offering both straightforward and disingeuous answers to a
long list of questions raised by residents about the Post Office
relocation project. He also called a public hearing and reinitiated (?)
the Section 106 Review.
At the May 17, 2006 public
hearing, many comments from residents focused on handicapped accessibility concerns,
some of which Senk seemed to share. The National Trust for
Historic Preservation submitted comments, but Senk deflected most
preservation questions by saying they would be addressed in a future
(!?) Section 106 Review.
During this second public hearing, Rowland’s supporters behaved with
such vicious rudeness towards anyone questioning her plan that several
residents said they would submit written comments afterwards rather
than speak in public. As always, the Village Trustees tolerated the
rude interruptions, but this time some said, in their subsequent
meeting, that they deplored
In September 2006, the USPS moved forward and advertised for a new location for the
Aurora Post Office. It was clear that only Rowland could meet the
requirements, and sure enough, hers was the only property offered.
On February 7, 2007, Senk sent a mesage to some of the interested
parties announcing a third public hearing in
Aurora set for February 21 (Ash Wednesday), saying there had been
"developments of interest" and promising an "update." When asked to
explain in advance the nature of these developments, he named those
listed in the paragraph above, and nothing more. It seems odd that he
would travel from Connecticut to tell us what we already know.
But that's exactly what he did. Although he did answer some interesting
questions regarding new design requirements, handicapped access,
parking safety, historic preservation review, and time frame for the
project. See a summary here.
In March 2007, Aurora Trustee Farenthold tried to pressure the USPS to
speed up the approval process by involving newly elected U.S.
Arcuri in promoting a new Rowland ultimatum asserting a bogus
deadline of June 1st for a phony municipal "grant." In April, Arcuri
had the sense to back away from mis-informed statement after recieving
information from other residents; see one of his responses at the
bottom of the page here.
In May 2007, USPS official Paul Senk informed Mayor Gunderson of a
radical reduction in the size requirement for the proposed new Aurora
Post Office, and told a resident he would issue a new solicitation for
another location while continuing to work with the currently selected
location (Heary Building). Senk admitted he had not received any
desgins for review from developer Wells-Rowland, and that the Advisory
Council on Historic Preservation would be involved along with the
National Trust for Historic Preservation in our long-delayed Section
106 Review. See details, along with the e-mail exhange and additional
Later that month, Wells College withdrew the Heary Building from
consideration as a new venue for our postal facility! And the USPS
asked the Mayor if the Village might renew
the lease for the current facility -- a fact which the Mayor
has kept from the public.
The majority of villagers hope for a reasonable
resolution to the problem created by our Village Board's
ill-advised support of Rowland's unrealistic plan. The Village really
must consider renovating the current structure. Otherwise, as of March
2009, the USPS will have no home in Aurora.
Nevertheless, Trustee Farenthold wants to play a blame
game and prolong the prospect Rowland's failed project -- no matter
what the public wants or needs.
But at its July 18 meeting, the Village Board responded responsibly --
Farenthold was absent! -- and authorized an engineer's condition
report on our current Post Office, to determine what steps would
need to be taken to make the building acceptable for a renewed USPS
At the September 2007 Village Board meeting, the condition report
with cost estimates was reviewed by the board. Unrealistic,
irresponsible and obstructionist -- Farenthold still refuses to replace
the P.O. roof that he has allowed to rot while he has been the Trustee
in charge Village Buildings and Grounds.
Paul Senk of the USPS returned to Aurora for fourth (!) Public
Hearing in February. Little was resolved, and the minutes have
not been posted on the Village web site.
As June begins, and nine months remain on the existing lease,
Farenthold again tries to promote Rowland's
plan, in clear opposition to the will of the Village Board and the
citizens of Aurora.