By. Neil Williamson
Community leaders say residents would benefit from part of Crozet becoming a historic district, and though the first steps were taken to make that happen, paperwork has been stalled. And uncertainty lingers about when the application will be completed and who’ll pay for it.
Michael Marshall, chairman of the Crozet Community Advisory Council, said that such a request should be filed by Albemarle County, particularly considering that most of the work is already done and part of the expenses were paid by the county. But Margaret Maliszewski, the county’s principal planner for architectural review and historic resources, says that the county doesn’t have the money or staff to finish the work.
“It’s just sitting on a shelf now,” Marshall said. “At a recent CCAC meeting, [county officials] said, ‘Well, you guys have to come up with $5,000 to package this report in an application to the feds.’”
Crozet community leaders say that the advantage of having a historic district would be that eligible businesses would be able to get tax credits that would cover as much as 45 percent of the cost of renovating historic buildings that are more than a half-century old, and homeowners could have as much as 25 percent of renovation costs covered.
What is the proper role for local government? In this time of significant reductions in local government revenue, The Free Enterprise Forum asks what are the benefits to the entire community of having this historic district designation. One may argue that it builds community pride but so do many other community funded activities.
The historic district designation’s primary beneficiary is landowners within the historic district. As the article cites, they would be eligible for special tax credits (funded by federal tax dollars) for up to 45% of the cost of renovations to their structures.
While there may be some limited benefit to those directly adjacent to the district, the Free Enterprise Forum questions the significance of any benefits to those outside the historic district.
In addition, the Free Enterprise Forum notes with great trepidation this quote from the article:
There would be no disadvantage to having a special district in Crozet, experts agree, and no regulations would be forced upon home or business owners.
While there may not be significant regulations being forced upon home or business owners at this time, significant additional regulation will likely come into play at a later point. Once identified as a historic district, architectural restrictions are commonplace. A review of the replacement of the Advanced Mills Bridge is an excellent primer on the impact of Historic District designation. The designation did NOT preclude the replacement of the bridge but it did require additional study and planning to minimize the impact to the historic district.
The Free Enterprise Forum is not opposed to the creation of Historic Districts but we do ask all property owners within the district voluntarily choose to be in the district with their eyes open regarding the potential impacts. In addition, if the landowners are the primary beneficiaries, why would the burden of funding the application fall on the taxpayers of Albemarle County?