Aurora Coalition, Inc.

Inn Under Wraps

Aurora Inn: Demolished to a shell by
Pleasant Rowland 2002, Closed 2008.

Site last updated October 4, 2009; replaced May 15,2010 with New Home Page

A non-profit org incorporated in 2001 to support historic integrity and economic autonomy; Box 334 Aurora NY 13026 - AuroraCoalition@yahoo.com

Our Guestbook* ~ Guestbook Archive*

Feedback Forum, updated 4/21/09 ~ Archive

BACKGROUND

Even with strong legal support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation League of New York State, we lost a lawsuit to get an Environmental Impact Study of the Aurora Inn/Market Project in 2002.

Billionaire developer Pleasant Rowland then fully gutted the remarkably intact 1833 Aurora Inn and altered all of its historic exterior. Her project, opposed by the State Historic Preservation Office, also demolished an adjacent 1929 store in order to build a large incompatible addition to her phony "ye olde" inn.

Degradation of Aurora's National Register Historic District continued with the gutting and radical alteration of more buildings. Our local government failed to require Environmental Impact Studies or Section 106 Reviews for her projects, and many negative results arose from her segmented development: destruction of historic architecture, devastation of archeological sites, loss of public recreational space, elimination of local businesses, loss of parking space, development of dangerous traffic patterns, obliteration of local gathering places, corrosion of community identity, etc.

Rowland's holding company, the Aurora Foundation LLC, came to dominate our village. It is a real estate development corporation, not a non-profit charitable organization. Called a "partnership" with Wells College, tax records show that it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rowland's own private foundation.

Past Publicity: National & Local

Professional Preservation Opinion

Photos: Devastation and Destruction

THE RESULT

In exchange for destroying our village's historic centerpiece, Rowland promised to collaborate with the community to promote economic growth.

Six years later, her promise is unfilled and Rowland remains inaccessible and unresponsive. Locally owned business were evicted. Few new jobs went to locals. Most LLC employment is part-time or seasonal. Under her control, the Inn, Fargo, and Dorie's operate on severely reduced hours 9 months of the year. Her Pizzaurora went out of business on 9/3/07!

With Rowland as CEO, MacKenzie - Childs, Ltd. slashed jobs, got embroiled in legal problems, built and then shut down a posh new restaurant. The one new business she created in the village (Posie's) failed miserably and closed.

In the spring of 2006 Rowland staged a bogus departure in a futile effort to reduce growing community opposition to her corporate hegemony. But on the day she was supposed to "turn over" all her business interests in the village to her "partner" (Wells College), she applied to our Planning Board to start a new private commercial enterprise. All the LLC business still appear to operate under her control. In September 2007, she bought another commercial property in the village.

*Guestbook and Forum reflects views of individual readers, not those of Aurora Coalition.

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Trick or Treat - Halloween contest continues!

Travel- planning a visit? Updated 10/08.

Happyland- national attention for Aurora-inspired novel serialized Summer-Fall 2006 in Harper's Magazine. Can fiction be any stranger than truth?

Discussion erupts again, spring 2007

Debate continues, summer '06.

Employment- working for the LLC?

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WHAT'S NEW:

Village Govt - new meeting times, new office hours.

Museum Coming Here? Rowland may donate 240 acre farm for a Museum of the Finger Lakes. Is Aurora really the place for this project? Read comments below the linked newspaper article.

Tears - two deaths in as many weeks; Aurora loses beloved resident Tudy Kenyon and devoted Village Clerk Nancy Yann; updated 3/5/09.

Pocket Park Mess: Why should residents be allowed to destroy a public park? updated 5/21/09.

Unchecked Corruption identified in village government, Trustee warns of worse to come and resigns 9/08. Village Board fails to address the accusation or resignation; updated 12/19/08.

Culvert Mess created by Mayor, Code Officer, Webb House owner, and Planning Board will result in DOT trashing private property at taxpayer expense; new 4/15/09 (background here).

Rowland's Inn Closes - having destroyed the historic 1833 Aurora Inn and devastated our community in a savage attempt to force the creation of a Pleasant Village, the college shuts Rowland's showcase for half a year; 11/8/08.

Dorie's Closes- Rowland's failed business to undergo another renovation after all employees are fired without notice; updated 12/17/08.

Farenthold - deception about sheriff substation deal drives Village Trustee Zabriskie to resign in September; bizarre behavior at October board meeting and online; updated 12/17/08.

Rowland Sued for a "deftly engineered scheme" to take windfall profits and leave shareholders with pennies; 11/8/08.

Vandalism - tires slashed on protest car again, a year after the first attack! What has Rowland really done to Aurora? Restored 10/31/08.

Rowland Sells MacKenzie-Childs, not to a design or retail company, but to a private investment firm, a month after she is defeated in court, 5/08.

Farewell - Rowland's speech contradicts her statements to the Wall Street Journal.

Deja-vu - 2 years after Post-Standard announced Rowland's departure in March 2006 the paper announces it again on May 2008! Frank Cammuso editorial cartoon in Post-Standard.

P.O. Plan - USPS manager Paul Senk meets with Village Board 2/20/08, and says our post office is fine where it is, but Farenthold still objects. USPS lease set to expire 2/09, renewed for one year.

P.O. Background- Rowland wanted our village-owned PO building destroyed in order to expand her LLC's parking lot. She expected the USPS to relocate to her building (with very poor handicapped access) to solve the parking problem she created. Accepting her "Memorandum of Understanding," our Village Board voted 12/05 to demolish our P.O., though the plan hadn't yet received USPS approval. Farenthold tried 3/07 to convince our Congressman to hasten the USPS review process. In 5/07, the USPS announced new requirements and plans for an historic preservation review, so Rowland backed out of the deal. Outline of Rowland's 6 year campaign to destroy our Post Office: updated 10/ 07.

A Town Too Perfect? - Read the full version of the lengthy fall 2007 Associated Press feature story on Aurora which ran nationwide; check out the public comments at bottom of the CNN page (over 50% Un-Pleasant).

Doll Village - The New York Times returns for a 12/07 feature on the Aurora controversy, more than 6 years after it first broke the story.

Rowland Not Going - buys more village property, 9/17/07.

Village Attorney - advised 8/16/07 that Webb House owners "may again be attempting to proceed with development...inconsistent with written site plan approval" and that such deviation would be "unlawful." He notes the fact "that it has already happened once before in this project is especially distressing."

R.I.P. CPP? - account of 8/1/07 meeting of Community Preservation Panel.

Village Attorney - writes Mayor on 7/3/07 re Webb House expansion, saying if his "memory is correct" about lack of approvals from planning or preservation boards, our code enforcement officer "must order a work stop on this addition immediately." But work continued.

Dollhouse to Doghouse - Wisconsin feature on Rowland in Aurora, July '07.

Code Compliance - problematic in Aurora.

Code Enforcement - even more problematic.

Aurora Inn's slip-shod post-gutting reconstruction begins to exact its price, 8/08.

For Sale - Rowland mansions listed with, and falsely described by, her newest acolyte 2/08: Leffingwell House - for $2M and Abbot House for $2.2M. With no takers, the houses get featured in the 5/15/08 Wall Street Journal.

Musical Houses Summary- Lake House demolished, Lyon House rotted, Webb House moved (again), culvert broken, a flood results, Webb house placed on top of culert anyway, Lyon sold, Webb expaned without permits, Lyon renovated, new onwers sue in attempt to obtain lakefront, DOT plans reroute culvert at taxpayer expense; photos and ongoing narrative, 4/15/09.

Webb House- Rowland "rescued" this house in '03 by moving it a few 100'. There it remained for three years - a hazardous, illegal eyesore. On 11/2/06 a resident demolished Lake House hoping to relocate Webb House on its site. On 11/8/06 the Planning Board issued another conditional permit, but the move began on November 13, which caused a flood. Nine months later, work continues amid unresolved zoning and planning concerns.

Lyon House- The Community Preservation Panel rejected Rowland's application in 6/05 to destroy this distinctive, gracious 100 year old home so she could use the land for Webb House. The college, which owned the building, ignored, discouraged or rejected all potential buyers while neglecting the property for three years; see photos. Then in January 2007, Wells marketed the house and sold it in April.

Lake House- These small apartments provided affordable housing in our village. Due to strong community opposition in '04, Rowland didn't get permission to demolish them to provide space for her Webb House project (see above). After two years of willful neglect by owner Wells College, in '06 another applicant got conditional approval for the same project. In October the college sold the property to this individual (Rowland's surrogate?) for one-fourth its assessed value. It was demolished.

Abbot House- On June 1, 2006, Rowland applied to establish another new, private commercial enterprise in a residential area. Now in February 2008, its listed for sale as a possible B&B for $2.2 million. approval, this time to move Webb House. With conditions not met, the on 11/2/06; were the specified conditions met?

Vandalism - Parked car battered near Inn, night of 5/25/08; owner distributes interesting flyer.

French House- This 19th Century lake-side mansion, built for for Congressman E. B. Morgan, was fully gutted and reconfigured by Rowland to turn it into a commercial accommodation "annex" for the Inn. Its authentic historic character has been lost forever; zoning, compliance, and tax issues appear unresolved.

Wood House- Doug Wood's supposedly "independent" fantasy re-invention of this once historic home was in fact funded by Rowland. Rents were set far too high for displaced local businesses. The property was supposed to "revert" to Rowland in 5 years, but she couldn't wait - 9/17/07.

Fargo Bar- Villagers still protest Rowland's 6/05 take-over of this Aurora institution. To appease the community, she named a local manager; he quit 7/05. She fired his replacement 11/05. Turnover continues amid rumors of misbehavior by LLC employees; many locals refuse to patronize the place.

Dock- Though she controls 300' of lakeshore behind the Inn, Rowland placed a private commercial dock immediately adjacent to our public park. Despite resident's objections, the Army Corps issued a conditional permit allowing placement inches from the 1815 Aurora Steam Grist Mill. The placement threatens further deterioration of the historic site.

Aurorafest parade float mocks the Rowland fanatics, 7/08.