Planning Perspective on Preservation (2/16)

BY CARLY MARSHALL / February 2016

The benefits of historic preservation go well beyond retaining aesthetics and maintaining a tangible tie with local history. The more people know about a place the more likely they are to develop a sense of stewardship towards it. Our historic buildings, structures, and landscapes provide an opportunity for us and for future generations to learn about, engage with, and become connected to the communities in which we live.

Historic Preservation can also support the local economy. Heritage tourism is among the top economic sectors in Adams County. Places with a strong sense of heritage are attractive to visitors, as well as potential home buyers. Property values within historic districts tend to increase faster than those in the surrounding community, providing a sound investment for buyers and generating increased tax revenues for local municipalities. Repurposing old buildings can be a “green” alternative to new construction. The preservation of historic agricultural landscapes helps support and retain local agriculture, as well as its supporting businesses throughout the region.

Historic preservation and economic development do not have to exist in conflict. As with anything, balance is key. As local population increases so does the need for new housing, and businesses supporting the growing community. Municipalities can encourage new development that is sensitive to existing heritage resources and that complements the community’s character.

One of the most well-known preservation tools is the National Register of Historic Places. This is the official list of sites, buildings, structures, and districts that are recognized for their significance in American history. One benefit of National Register Listing is that financial resources are available to owners of National Register listed sites, or of sites within a listed Historic District.

A common misconception about National Register listing is that it restricts the rights of property owners. Contrary to popular belief, being on the National Register does not prevent a resource from being altered, demolished or destroyed, nor does it require public access. Property owners do not have to follow preservation standards on their properties unless they seek to qualify for tax credits. Some projects are subject to state review, but only if they use federal funding, require federal licensing or approval, or are being conducted by a federal agency.

Federal, state, and local governments can play a supporting role in preservation projects. Local governments have several tools available to them to promote preservation, building reuse, and context-sensitive new development. Pennsylvania municipalities are able to utilize their comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance, local historic district, and the appointment of a Historic Architectural Review Board to further a community’s preservation goals. Ordinance provisions can be made to allow local governments to work with developers on projects that may affect historic resources and find creative solutions that are mutually beneficial.

A holistic approach is necessary for successful implementation of community preservation goals. Local organizations, businesses, and residents should be involved in the planning process to determine commonly agreed upon priorities, and achievable objectives. This helps communities identify the heritage resources important to them before they are threatened by development or extreme neglect. Being proactive about preservation increases the likelihood of success, and avoids potential conflict within the community.

Learn more about planning for preservation, and about select initiatives currently in progress at the Cumberland Township Historical Society quarterly meeting on March 7, at 7 p.m. at the Church of the Brethren, 1710 Biglerville Road. This meeting is free of charge and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Carly Marshall is a planner with the Adams County Office of Planning and Development.