Much like beauty, historical significance is often in the eye of the beholder.

Where one might see a fine old structure "they just don't make any more," another might see an aging building that would make a very nice parking lot.

So who makes the call when both beholders lay claim?

No one — officially.

Sometimes preservationists are successful and a developer will voluntarily back off, as was the case with the Hoke House in Spring Grove earlier this year.

Under an order from the borough to either repair or tear down the structure, Rutter's, the owner, applied for a demolition permit. However, the Friends of the Hoke House formed to save the building that once hosted President George Washington and later the 35th Battalion of the Virginia Cavalry.

The Manchester-based convenience store chain agreed to hold the wrecking ball back for a year, giving the group time to come up with a plan to raise the money to bring the building up to code and put it to use.

Other times, no amount of protest can stand in the way of "progress."

The Avalong barn on Whiteford Road in Springettsbury Township was torn down last year, despite protests from Springettsbury Township residents and descendents of the Long family, which built the barn.

Township officials said Susquehanna Bank, which had purchased the property to build a new branch, went through the proper channels to obtain permission for demolition.


Battles like these attracted the attention of York County officials, who have no formal planning procedure to guide commissioners or municipal officials as they weigh involvement in preserving properties that might or might not be historically significant.

The county Planning Commission is working on a document that would give officials a process and resources for deliberations.

The "Historic Preservation Plan" won't have any teeth — it won't offer solutions or commit funding to preservation — but it will help get all parties on the same page from the start of a dispute.

"We'll have a list of criteria so, no matter how sentimental an issue is and no matter how much local resistance there is to it, they can look at it objectively and based on sound principles in a plan," said Amy Evans, a senior planner overseeing the preservation plan

It's likely to include a list of tools, policies, and resources for communities interested in historic preservation, but it won't include an inventory of endangered properties, she said.

Even with input from preservationists, history teachers and staff at the York County Heritage Trust, the plan probably won't head off another fight over what's worth saving.

But it just might make the next one a little shorter and the final call a bit more objective.