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March 6, 2021

My Turn, Karen Lilly-Bowyer: Face facts on landmark moratorium

By Karen Lilly-Bowyer

I would like to thank Al Heggins and Tamera Sheffield for their vote to continue the Salisbury Historic Landmark Designation Program. 

Thank you for doing your homework. As for the rest of the council, I have a question or two. 

Have you read the state historic preservation guidelines or are your continuing statements on wanting to refine Salisbury’s plan disingenuous? 

Mr. David Post continues to say that he doesn’t want the 50% tax credit to be the motivating factor for landmark designation. The 50% tax credit is written into the state law. Every North Carolina city or county that has a landmark designation program is required to provide the tax credit and, as Ms. Catherine Garner pointed out, if the property owner does not follow the historic guidelines, they lose the tax credit and are required to pay back any tax credits that they received.

Mr. Brian Miller continues to say that he doesn’t like the idea of giving the designation to standalone properties that are not in a historic district. One of the primary reasons why the law was written was to protect the standalone properties that do not have the added advantage of being in an historic district. Again, have you taken the time to read the law?

It seems that the only people who are confused about this program are Mr. Post, Mrs. Karen Alexander and Mr. Miller.  The Historic Preservation Commission certainly understands the program. They are on the front line. If a property doesn’t have a chance of meeting the strenuous standards set out by the State Historic Preservation Office, then it is not given the go-ahead to move forward. If a property does move to the state level and it is approved, what right does the city council have to disqualify the property? They are not the experts in historic preservation.

When every major city and most smaller cities in North Carolina embrace the state landmark designation program, why would our current city council vote to put our program on hold? The answer to that question goes back several years. The council put the program in place to help a company that wanted to develop the Empire Hotel. They never thought, as Brian Miller once said, that anyone else would try to use the program.  

The standards for designation are written into state law. If some of our council members want to add standards or require property owners to prove that they will invest money in the property to receive landmark designation, then they will have to convince the State Historic Preservation Office to ask for a change in the laws. 

Since the majority of state municipalities are satisfied with the laws the way they are, I don’t see that happening. Please face the facts. You passed the landmark ordinance. If you have remorse, vote to revoke the ordinance. Don’t make excuses and pretend that you care about historic preservation!

Karen Lilly-Bowyer lives in Salisbury.

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