I hate to bring up this droll subject on a Monday but alas, for at least businesses, tax time is here! (And a good time for procrastinators like me to get their taxes in before April.) But I want to finish up with one last blog on the importance of the National Register.
So briefly, we’ve left the ‘symbolic’ labeling of the National Register of Historic Places far behind, choking in the dust. I revealed how gaining a National Register designation is the foundation for huge benefits and the springboard to many types of preservation. I demonstrated how important the ‘contributing’ designation is. Then I continued by showing all the exemptions from costly construction that are available. I revealed that developers and many building owners inside the District may be able to receive exemptions from the stringent Building Codes that will save thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. Then I exposed the deliberate campaign over the years to hide the National Register from the citizens of Newburyport. Then I revealed the hidden hurt that potentially lies within the Register. And finally, I showed, by using the National Register, what will be necessary to get the Demolition-Control Overlay District (DCOD) to actually preserve historic buildings.
But I left out the three main ways the National Register helps businesses and residents, save on taxes.
First, we need an informed citizenry. By realizing how important the Newburyport Historic District is through education can go a long way to saving our city from becoming an intolerably costly place to live. In this blog post, I showed that developers, like crocodiles, promise much but in the end will devour the quality of life for a host of residents. Their persistence to demolish and/or expand or bloat a building or squeeze a building between other buildings will raise the average property value for a street. It will ripple down through the neighborhood causing everyone living there to have to pay higher taxes.* The single most important means to preserve our level of tax rate and perhaps even lower it is to preserve the buildings in the Newburyport Historic District. There are many reasons for this which I have demonstrated over the years, but summarizing it – the gentrification of the city with new buildings under the very strict Massachusetts Building Code will require thousands of unnecessary dollars expended and cause the average price of homes in Newburyport to become unattainable by average middle Americans.
Second, we need a well-informed business climate. There are significant tax credits available from the state and from the Federal government to businesses that observe the rules of rehabilitation by the Department of the Interior when renovating an historic building. Landlords can receive those same tax credits by observing the same guidelines when refurbishing or renovating their rental properties. There are no comparable benefits when demolishing buildings or gutting a house. But as I have indicated, many a developer and landlord are blissfully ignorant or have been lead astray by our building inspector. A climate where businessmen are well-informed by banks, by the city, by financial organizations and by the local Chamber of Commerce; could go a long way to accessing these tax benefits.
Third, we need citizens who still believe in doing things for posterity. Residents can also get tremendous tax benefits through an entirely different means. By putting a preservation easement on their house, a sizeable tax credit can be issued which actually can be amortized over many years. Many put tens of thousands of dollars into their homes so they can live comfortable for TODAY. Putting a preservation easement says that you care about preserving your building to continue the National Story and for the benefit of future generations. It requires time (working through bureaucrats), dollars put aside for the enforcement mechanism and a third-party enforcer. In our city, we have three available. The least-expensive is the Newburyport Historical Commission, the middle of the road is the Newburyport Preservation Trust and if really serious about preserving not just the exterior but the interior of the building and willing to pay the price; Historic New England. Of course, there are also other regional and national organizations such as the Architectural Trust.
All these avenues are available because of past citizens and elected officials who had the vision to put the Newburyport Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. They saved many a building owner money by securing the first foundational step.
We need businesses and citizens to realize they can use these three means to save much in the way of tax levies. But two of these can’t be rushed into quickly and take preparation and consultation with local historic preservation organizations such as the Historical Commission and the Preservation Trust and Historic New England** so the tax benefits can be enjoyed in 2016.
If there is any good time to start, it is now.
* Hats off to the Back-Bay residents who actually worked via zoning and through their city councilors to slow down these ‘crocodiles’!
** Historic New England is pricy but if you become a member (not expensive), they will make available so much of their expertise free of charge or at a small minimum fee and will often have seminars available too.