City of Canandaigua standards and regulations for boathouse construction and alteration


In 1990 the boathouses and finger piers were designated by the City Council as Historic Structures, regulated by the City Historic Zoning Ordinance (Section 10.40 of the Municipal Code).

The boathouses are also regulated by Section 4.08 of the Municipal Code, piers, harbors and boathouses.

The Standards which follow are taken directly from Section 4.08 and Section 10.40. The Regulations have been adopted by the Planning Commission to supplement the standards.


No person shall hereafter erect, construct, reconstruct, expand, modify, alter, restore, or change the exterior appearance of any boathouse without written permit to do so granted by the Planning Commission and Building Inspector.

Said permit shall contain such conditions and limitations as the Planning Commission may determine.

Construction shall be started within a six (6) month period, and completion must be within one (1) year from the date of the building permit.


Application for a building permit to alter any boathouse structure shall be made to the Building Inspector.

Upon the filing of such application the Building Inspector shall immediately notify the Planning Commission of the receipt of such application and shall transmit it together with accompanying plans and other information to the Commission unless it pertains solely to the interior of the structure.

Said party shall submit scale drawings at 1/4" = 1'0" fully describing existing and proposed construction or improvements. Such drawings shall include information on the proposed structural materials, interior and exterior finishes, and special equipment such as electrical service, kitchen facilities, and sanitary facilities. The drawings shall include notations of the proposed use of each portion of the structure. Construction shall conform to the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code where applicable.


All repairs to existing boathouses shall comply with the NYS Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code. (Reference Section 1231.3.) Repairs may or may not require building permits. Consult the Building Inspector.


The following regulations begin with standards that must be met for all new construction or alterations. Exceptions to these standards can only be granted through a variance by City Council with recommendations by the Planning Commission and Building Inspector.

The regulations which follow these standards have been adopted by the Planning Commission based on historic documentation of existing boathouse structures.



Boathouses are limited to a single story, not to exceed 15 ft. in height from the surface of the adjacent boardwalk to the peak of the roof.

New boathouses must have a single gable roof with a slope of no less than 4 in 12.

Any new boathouse must be at least 18 inches away from the adjacent boathouse, (except that this standard shall not require the reduction in width of any boathouse to less than 12 feet wide).


The historic boathouse district is characterized by a definite rhythm established by the similarity in massing and building form of the individual structures. Structures are deeper than they are wide and the roof ridge line typically runs perpendicular to the finger pier.



Exterior changes permitted by the Planning Commission shall be consistent with the historic character of the boathouses as they existed between 1904 and 1930.


The most common mistake made in boathouse design and renovation is to project elements of Victorian architecture upon the vernacular architecture of the boathouses. While many historic structures in Canandaigua do display the grand and ornate style of the Victorian Period, this style is neither appropriate nor compatible with the character of the boathouses. The traditional boathouse style is that of a modest vernacular. They were simple one story, front-gabled sheds, which served a simple function - the storage of boats.



Noncombustible materials must be used to build the structural parts of all new boathouses, and for alterations and additions to the structural parts of existing boathouses. Noncombustible materials or combustible materials with a flame-spread rating of twenty five (25) or less must be used to build all non-structural parts of new boathouses, and for alterations and additions to the non-structural parts of existing boathouses

Entry platforms, boatwells, and pilings shall be kept structurally sound. All boathouses shall have exterior siding properly maintained and painted.

All boathouses shall have adequate roofing materials to maintain a weather tight condition.

Any new boathouse constructed or substantially altered shall be equipped with gutters and down spout to direct roof drainage into the lake.

Boathouse doors and windows shall have secure locking devices.

All electrical wiring shall have the New York Board of Fire Underwriters' approval.

No plumbing is permitted in boathouses.

All new or reconstructed boathouses shall contain a boatwell and a doorway on the lake side of the structure. No boathouse shall be altered to remove a boatwell.


  • SIDING: Boathouse siding is typically simple vertical board-and-batten or horizontal-lap siding. While vinyl and metal siding have been used to meet the standards for noncombustibility, they are not historically appropriate. Horizontal clapboard siding or vertical T-111 siding is considered appropriate when painted with a flame retardant paint to achieve the required flame-spread rating. Metal siding remains acceptable on sides of buildings not visible from the finger piers or lake.
  • ROOF: Historic photographs suggest that the boathouse roofs were simply wooden planks, or sometimes wooden shingles. Although metal roofing materials were used in the 1904 - 1930 time period, modern metal roofing materials often do not convey the same visual appearance as a standing seam, "tin" roof. Asphalt shingles and rolled roofing are considered appropriate.
  • DOORS: Historic photographs show simple door designs - vertical planks, with large external hinges and no window lights. Raised-panel doors of a Victorian design are not appropriate, nor is ornate hardware. Simple painted wood or steel doors are considered appropriate.
  • WINDOWS: Original boathouses had few, if any window openings. There is limited documentation showing some boathouses with small, simple window openings near the doorways or in the gable. Divided-light or arched windows, decorative moldings, sills, or ornamentation are not appropriate. Simple double-hung or fixed pane windows are considered appropriate.



No light, sign, deck or any other appurtenant fixture or ornament, may be erected or displayed on any boathouse or finger pier without approval from the Planning Commission.

Outside decks or platforms at the first floor level of no more than 80 sq. ft. are permitted provided that the total length of the boathouse including the deck does not exceed 32 feet. No second floor sundecks are permitted.


  • LIGHTS: Although the original boathouses were not wired for electrical lighting, external lighting has been approved. Carriage lights or lights with a historic or nautical theme are considered appropriate.
  • SIGNS: Signs larger than 2 sq. ft. are permitted only for those boathouses where commercial uses are permitted - those immediately adjacent to City Pier. Signs constructed of painted and/or carved wood are considered appropriate.


While boathouses of the referenced historical period did not have sun decks, simple, first-floor entry platforms have been allowed. Carved spindles and ornamental posts are not considered appropriate. A simple, contemporary, design is appropriate to the rustic style of the traditional boathouse.

A balcony may be permitted only on a pre-existing 2-story boathouse, where there is evidence that the boathouse once had a balcony. Again, simple construction, without carved spindles or posts, is appropriate.