New Historic Preservation Ordinance Allows Local Historic Districts To Be Established:  On June 22, 2006, the Austin City Council passed an ordinance allowing for the establishment of local historic districts (“LHDs”) by providing rehabilitation incentives for properties in such districts.  The stated purpose of these LHDs is to preserve the areas.  The neighbors in a LHD will devise a “preservation plan” and the city will grant some tax abatements for preservation efforts.  Austin will be joining other major Texas cities that establish these districts to protect areas of historic significance.  The City has worked out the application process, and estimates that the first district will take about 18 months to create.

To qualify for a local historic district designation, the ordinance requires that:

1.            a petition be filed requesting local historic district designation by the owners of at least 60% of the land within a proposed local historic district to initiate rezoning of the property;

2.            51% of the structures within a local historic district must be contributing at the time the nomination is placed on the agenda of the Historic Landmark Commission, but not at the time the case is heard by Council;

3.            at least 25% of the contributing buildings within a local historic district must be documented with ownership and occupancy histories in no less than 5 year intervals);

4.            Section 25-2-355(A) clarifying the criteria for designation of a historic landmark and a historic area combining district;

5.            the Historic Landmark Commission to review applications for remodel permits which affect the exterior of a building within a National Register Historic District

The Historic Task Force Recommendations are available by clicking here, the Task Force Report is available by clicking here, and the actual Ordinance is available by clicking here.

On August 24, 2005, the Heritage Society sponsored a seminar on the upcoming local historic districts.  You can download the presentation by Steve Sadowsky, City of Austin Preservation Officer, and the draft application, which is soon to be finalized.  A summary of the new ordinance that was sent out to landmark owners may be obtained by clicking here.  Another summary from the City of Austin Preservation Officer, entitled “LOCAL HISTORIC DISTRICTS IN AUSTIN,” may be obtained by clicking hereSee also, Revisions to Historic Landmark Ordinance that established local historic Districts.

According to the summary, “owner-occupied residential properties would be eligible for a seven-year abatement on the added value of the rehabilitation with the re-investment of 25% of the pre-improvement value of the structure in qualified rehabilitation expenditures, including at least 5% of the pre-improvement value of the structure re-invested in exterior restoration or rehabilitation.”  That’s a mouthful, but essentially, the City won’t tax the increase in value from any improvement/rehabilitation for seven years if (1) at least 25% of the pre-improvement value of the structure is used for “qualified rehabilitation expenditures” and (2) at least 5% of the pre-improvement value of the structure is used for “exterior restoration or rehabilitation.”  Different rules apply for income producing properties.

THIS IS BIG NEWS BECAUSE THE ORDINANCE MAY BE AN EXTREMELY USEFUL TOOL FOR OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.

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