Speaker Stresses Historic Preservation
Why preserve old buildings?
The reasons go on and on, but the foremost is because it makes a big difference in the quality of life for the people in a community, said Myrick Howard, director of Preservation North Carolina.
He spoke Thursday night for the first in a four-part monthly lecture series entitled "Sandhills at a Crossroads."
The Moore County Historical Association and the Classical Design Foundation of Southern Pines are sponsoring the free lectures, which are intended to help residents and community leaders understand the past, present and future as the area continues to grow.
Howard's topic was "The Value of Our Architectural Legacy." He spoke in the auditorium of Southern Pines Elementary School. The campus was designed in the early 20th century by Aymar Embury II, an architect who designed Weymouth Center (the Boyd house).
Perhaps less widely known, Howard said, is that preservation is good for the local economy, creating jobs and allowing local businesses to sell tools and materials for the intensive labor needed to rehabilitate an old building. Restoring historic structures increases property values.
"We are the animal shelter, not the pet shop, of buildings and properties," he said, referring to Preservation North Carolina.
The nonprofit foundation was established in 1939 to help preserve historic buildings. It sometimes borrows money to buy endangered properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places or Landmarks that aren't protected through public laws.
The foundation rehabilitates endangered historic properties if no private owner or developer can do it. The foundation can work with developers and others to move an endangered building to save it. Buying a property to save it would be a last resort for a community or the foundation.
"We are in the real estate business," he said.
The foundation has to be choosy and will look at buildings already on the National Register of Historic Places or Landmarks as criteria for consideration.
It is less costly to put legal protections in place to protect a historic building through such things as a preservation easement, an agreement included in the deed of title between the property owner and Preserv-ation North Carolina, that prohibits successive owners from demolishing the structure and from subdividing the property.
Howard said part of Preservation North Carolina's responsibility is to bird-dog these deed restrictions and covenants to make sure no one ignores them when the original owner dies and the estate sells the property.
Another avenue is a local landmark designation, which can result in as much as a 50 percent reduction in an individual's ad valorem property tax cost, he said.
Some developers around the state are actually doing a good job and realize money can be made through historic preservation work, he said.
"Where the rubber meets the road" is the local decision-making body that oversees land-use decisions, such as a historic district commission.
The village of Pinehurst is considering establishing a commission. Southern Pines is considering expanding the boundaries of its historic district to protect historic homes. The present district covers the core downtown.
In Southern Pines, about 500 structures near the core downtown that are on the National Register are not in the local historic district and are endangered, according to a member of the local historic district commission.
As members of the audience waited for Howard's lecture to begin, the local Historical Association had a slide show displaying samples of important historic homes all over Moore County.
Identified as endangered were four historic homes in Southern Pines that the First Baptist Church plans to demolish for a new education building and parking area. The church owns the homes -- three on South Ashe Street and one on Massachusetts Avenue.
Congress passed a law recently expressly prohibiting local governments from interfering with freedom of religious activity by churches. The law "burdens" local communities, he said, because it is so vaguely worded it's open to interpretation.
"Where does it draw the line?" he said. "Discussing design issues is not a violation of freedom of religion," he said. "Community impact is not a violation of freedom of religion."
Sara Lindau can be reached at 693-2473 or by e-mail at slindau @thepilot.com.
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