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 Posted: Tue Sep 11th, 2007 08:40 pm
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PvtClewell
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Our humble town of 20,000 recently had a residential district of about 800 houses put on the National Historic Register. We live in that district and it's composed of homes mostly (but not all) built prior to 1950. (Our house was built in 1920, so it is closing in on its 100th birthday. Party time. Y'all come).

The benefit of living in a historic district is that you qualify for tax credits if your house is contributing (older than 1950) and you make $25,000 or more in renovations/repairs. All well and good. I like it.

Our town is on the way to making ours and another district (a wonderful old textile mill village of 300 homes also soon to be on the Historic Register and is one of the largest existing mill villages in the state) part of the city's historic preservation district, which is different from the national register. While it won't force anybody to make repairs or renovations (which I think is important), it will direct homeowners to follow certain city guidelines when renovations or repairs are made (like what colors you can choose to paint your house, what kind of siding you can use, what kind of windows, etc. The idea is to maintain the historic architectural integrity of the house, and thus the integrity of the district). Here is where there has been some resistence from some homeowners, whose battle cry is "You can't tell me what I can do to my house." They may have a point. We've been told taxes or assessments won't increase because a house is in a historic district, so that shouldn't be an issue.

From the meetings I've attended, most of the residents impacted by this are in favor of the historic designations. The classification also will prevent commercialism from encroaching (some residential homes have become lawyers' and realtors' offices) while possibly even saving others from demolition. A large number of old homes have already been razed, which led some residents to start a grassroots preservation movement to begin with. But there are a vocal few opposed to it.

I guess my question is, do any of you live in historic districts and how is that going? Seems to me, a homeowner would want to be a good steward of his old house, maintaining the value of his property as well as his neighbor's property values.



 Posted: Wed Sep 12th, 2007 10:13 pm
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ole
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Good on you, Pvt. Old is gold!

ole

Last edited on Wed Sep 12th, 2007 10:14 pm by ole



 Posted: Tue Sep 18th, 2007 11:32 pm
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booklover
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As an avid fan of "This Old House" and other shows of that genre, I am often amazed at what restrictions are placed on homes in historic districts. I can understand not wanting to paint a federal style home shocking pink, but I often come away from such discussions with the idea that "I am paying out the wazoo for this house, so however I want to fix it up is my business." Of course, I don't live in a historic district...heck I don't even live in a house (mobile home). I can understand wanting to maintain historic architectural integrity, and in many cases I will even applaud it, but sometimes I get the feeling that many of those "enforcers" of historic integrity take things a bit too far.

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Rob



 Posted: Tue Sep 18th, 2007 11:52 pm
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ole
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One of the most successful "historic integrity" cases I've seen was in Savannah. If you own a house or building within the protected district, you have really tight rules as to what you can do with it. In Savannah's case, of course, they have the tourism dollar to look at, and the last thing they want to look at is a house that is an unauthentic color.
ole



 Posted: Wed Sep 19th, 2007 03:30 pm
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David White
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Booklover:

As someone who has had his share of battles with HOAs and a true believer in property rights, I share your sentiment but the counterpoint to:

"I am paying out the wazoo for this house, so however I want to fix it up is my business."

is you can pay out the wazoo somewhere else not governed by covenants to fix it up the way you want, if you can't abide by the rules here.  Unfortunately with human beings there is a lot of subjectivity in the enforcement or lack of enforcement of the rules.  The way I see it my personal tastes are like fine wine and some of my neighbors drink Thunderbird out of a brown bag and then throw the empty on the ground, of course some of my neighbors think I'm drinking Mad Dog 20/20 ;).



 Posted: Wed Sep 19th, 2007 04:53 pm
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sweetea
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I can sympathize with both views here.  Twenty years ago, when our son was born, we soon decided that we needed another bedroom.  We THOUGHT that all we had to do was get the right contractor and get the proper permits.

It seems that since we lived in a very old house (circa 1802-04), and since the town council had decided that by virtue of age alone it was to be a historic district, we had to appear personally before them to explain precisely what we wanted done.  (Someone obviously could not read.)  When I gave our property dimensions in perches (an archaic form of measurement which was on the deed), they didn't know what a frakking perch was!  (Btw, it is the same measurement as a rod.)

My point is:

If someone is setting an area up as historic, they darn well should know what historic is; to me, there is a vast difference between 'historic' and something that is simply old...... like me.:)

 

 



 Posted: Wed Sep 19th, 2007 11:02 pm
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booklover
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I can remember one TOH episode where the couple, who lived in Nantucket (I think) wanted off street parking. They wanted to put an entrance next to their neighbor's home which would have led to their back yard. Their architect drew up a plan which would have made the entrance look like a carriage house entry but the historic commission shot it down.

David, you are certainly right that a person chooses to live in such a place and therefore should know beforehand what is expected, but it seems, based on my self-acknowledged limited experience, that some people just like having the power to say "no".

Best
Rob



 Posted: Thu Sep 20th, 2007 04:05 am
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PvtClewell
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Our fair city is still in the process of establishing its guidelines. We pretty much know we're not Williamsburg or Savannah, so I suspect the guidelines will not be all that restrictive. We've already been informed that the selection of paint colors from which we can choose to paint our houses is fairly liberal.

People who move into established historic districts probably understand what they're getting into. The thing about our case is that many residents within the district have already been living here for many years, and because this is something new for the town, it's a journey into the unknown. Some folks just don't like change, period. They also think this will cost them $$$$.

And we do have at least one curmudgeon on our street whose house could be a showplace within the district. He's lived there for nearly 40 years in a beautiful 3,500-sq. ft. two-story brick house with a leaky roof, some attic windows that are broken, paint that has been peeling off the trim and a yard that is barely landscaped. Health department arrived once for an inspection because of a rodent problem. But, of course, nobody's going to tell him what to do with his house. Sigh. Takes all kinds, I guess.

We still have a series of meetings ahead of us for community feedback as the city establishes its guidelines, but I feel confident this will happen within the comong year. Several cities near us (Winston-Salem, Salisbury — site of the Salisbury prison, which had a higher per capita death rate than Andersonville in the CW — and Thomasville all have successfull historic districts.)

It's exciting. I can't wait to put a plaque on our porch that says 'Smith House, 1920.'



 Posted: Thu Sep 20th, 2007 01:31 pm
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39th Miss. Walker
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Keep in mind too that in many historic districts the homes property values will raise as well. You may want to speak to an attorney as to the effects of the higher property taxes will have and since you will be in a defined district how the City can help offset those higher property taxes.
A friend told me once, "you buy a house it's yours, you buy an old house and it's your responsibility". 



 Posted: Thu Sep 20th, 2007 03:09 pm
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David White
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BL:

David, you are certainly right that a person chooses to live in such a place and therefore should know beforehand what is expected, but it seems, based on my self-acknowledged limited experience, that some people just like having the power to say "no".

Isn't that the truth but it sure is sweet when you beat them at their own game.  If they apply the rules inconsistently or are too rigid, they will lose.  My tactic was to contact my title insurance company and they will provide you "free" legal reprsentation to combat them.  Most HOAs are not rich enough to "outspend" you in legal representation if yours is free.  At that point, they negotiate more reasonable terms and if you are lucky, like I was, all the power trippers resign and you get a reasonable HOA board to replace them.



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