City close to nominating historic structures|Grant to pay for preparation of application

Published 8:25 am Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Contributing Editor

Washington is ready to take another step toward possibly creating a second historic district in the city.
Earlier this year, the city decided to seek a grant that would help the city prepare an application to nominate some structures in the North Market Street corridor and Oakdale and Cedar Hill cemeteries for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
The register is a list of buildings, structures, objects, sites and districts worthy of preservation because of their significance to American history, architecture, culture and archeology.
The State Historic Preservation Office offers a limited grant program to local governments to help them prepare nominations to add properties to the register. The city received a $9,000 grant to prepare its nomination, Rodman said.
“We haven’t selected anyone to do that for us, yet,” Rodman said.
Within a few weeks, the city will seek proposals to prepare the application to place the properties on the register, Rodman said.
In 2008-2009, Washington sponsored a comprehensive survey of historic structures throughout the city, except for the existing downtown historic district. The nomination application is a result of that study, John Rodman, the city’s acting planning and development director, said on Tuesday.
The study was partly funded by the State Historic Preservation Office.
Many structures identified in the survey are located along a section of the North Market Street corridor north of Sixth Street, with that corridor stretching up to several blocks on either side of North Market Street.
On June 11, Ellen Turco with Circa Inc., the consultant hired to conduct the survey, presented the survey results to the North Carolina National Register Advisory Committee, a board of professionals and residents with expertise in history, architectural history and archaeology.
After the presentation, the committee approved the surveyed properties and other individual properties for addition to the study list for the National Register of Historic Places.
Placement on the study list does not mean automatic nomination to the register, Rodman said. Inclusion on the list means the properties appear to be eligible for listing on the register and warrants further study of the properties’ history and significance.
Precise boundaries for the district have not been determined, with the boundaries presented in the study-list application considered approximate and preliminary.
“Study List designation places no obligations or restrictions on the local government or property owners,” reads a letter from the State Historic Preservation Office to Washington Mayor Judy Meier Jennette. “Also, please note that a district may not be nominated to the National Register over the objections of a majority of private owners of property within the proposed district.”
Even if a majority of property owners in the proposed district support becoming part of the register, individual property owners may opt out of being part of the district, Rodman said Tuesday. Property owners in the nominated area likely would be able to voice their opinions on inclusion on the register at a public hearing, Rodman said earlier this year.
If the areas under consideration are included on the register, it doesn’t mean their structures will be subject to guidelines governing development and/or rehabilitation of those structures. Inclusion on the register is not the same as inclusion in a historic district, Rodman said.
Property owners whose properties are included on the register are eligible for tax credits and grants for those properties.
Private-property owners listed on the register are not obligated or restricted on using private resources to maintain or alter their property.
They are obligated to follow federal preservation guidelines only if federal funding or licensing is used in work on the property. They must also follow the guidelines if they seek and receive a special benefit such as a tax credit or grant resulting from inclusion on the register.
However, inclusion of structures in the target area on the register could be a precursor to establishing a second historic district in the city. Property owners in historic districts usually face some restrictions on uses of their properties, Rodman said.
For another historic district to be created in the city, such action would have to take place at the local level, starting with the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, Rodman said.