Landmark Status Has Great Value
By Jack farrell
Special to The Pilot
Like the weather, Pinehurst's National Historic Landmark designation is endlessly discussed but little understood.
Over the past several years, the Landmark status has been a central topic in discussions relative to changes in the Historic District of Pinehurst and relations between the Historic Commission, the Village Council, and the National Park Service.
Inevitably, whenever there are discussions about the Historic Landmark, comments such as "what is the value of the Landmark status?" and "It's of no value to me" are made. Rarely does anyone try to answer the question or quantify the economic value of the Landmark status.
Pride in being part of a town that has achieved an honor and recognition far beyond what few communities in the United States can claim should be enough value for most people. But skeptics continue to claim the Landmark status was only a way to celebrate the village centennial in 1995.
A study and report by the North Carolina Downtown Development Association in 2011 concluded that the Landmark status was one of Pinehurst's greatest assets, though it made no attempt to quantify the Landmark's importance.
It can be helpful to think of the Landmark's worth in three parts.
- The first is its value to Pinehurst as a potential foundation for promoting historic tourism to attract visitors. In this respect, the National Landmark designation is unique to Pinehurst, an asset that no other active working town in North Carolina can claim. However, marketing itself as a historic tourism destination would require the village to invest in extensive marketing and infrastructure improvements such as public restrooms, possibly a larger welcome center, and other tourist-related facilities.
- The second part of the asset is very real and tangible. The Landmark designation provides potential monetary benefits to owners of historic property through federal and state grants and tax credits for preservation and rehabilitation. Buildings included as part of a National Historic Landmark would seem to have a significant advantage in acquiring grants under these programs.
Income tax incentives are available for rehabilitation of historic properties. The commercial tax credit allows owners of historic buildings a federal and North Carolina tax credit of 20 percent for qualifying rehabilitations of income-producing historic structures.
For residential buildings, North Carolina offers owners of historic buildings a 30 percent credit for qualifying rehabilitations of non-income-producing historic structures. Using these tax credit programs can provide jobs, bolster the tax base, and assist in revitalizing existing buildings and infrastructure while preserving Pinehurst's priceless historic character.
A side benefit of the Historic Landmark is that it offers the village the ability to block or cause a review of government projects funded, licensed or initiated by federal agencies that could affect the status The Landmark status may also afford the village leverage against arbitrary development sponsored or funded by an outside government agency, such as road development within a historic area.
-The third and probably the most overlooked and yet most valuable part of the Landmark asset is that, like it or not, the Landmark status provides a second pair of eyes to view any proposals that affect the historic nature of the village. This angel (or devil) on our shoulder helps us to see and consider the long-term consequences of actions and assess them in terms of their impact on the historic and unique nature of the village.
This is analogous to a concerned parent who asks a child, "Do you really want to have the tattoo of a dragon put around your neck?" It may be cool and fashionable at the time, but it may not serve you well in the long term.
This monitoring feature of the National Historic Landmark offers the village a reality check and a way to stay in control and keep a sense of perspective. It helps Pinehurst avoid making rash decisions that may appear good at the moment or have short term benefit, but may not be consistent with the historic nature of the village or destroy a valuable asset forever.
Whether used as way to promote historic tourism, assist property owners with preservation, or serve as a monitor to help the village do the right thing, the National Historic Landmark status has value beyond the obvious honor of the award and should be jealously guarded.
Jack Farrell, a second generation Pinehurst resident, created the "Guide to the Historic Village of Pinehurst" booklet.
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