National Register & Survey Program Manager Stephanie L. Cherry-Farmer, who is with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, gave the commission and audience members a summary on what a listing on the register would mean for downtown property and business owners.
The proposed Cartersville Downtown Historic District, according to a summary of the nomination, will be bounded by Church Street to the north, Gilmer Street to the east, Leake Street to the south and Bartow Street to the west. It will include properties previously listed on the national register such as the Old Bartow County Courthouse and Grand Theatre. It will also absorb the previously listed North Erwin Street Historic District and North Wall Street Historic District.
To be considered for the national register, Cherry-Farmer said, a piece of property or district must meet certain criteria. Being more than 50 years old, maintaining historic integrity and having some form of significance are among the criteria.
“It’s very important to understand at this stage that a property does not need to be nationally significant,” she said. “Most of our listings in Georgia are listed a the local or statewide level of significance, but they’re significant under one of the themes and they meet one of the criteria.”
The nomination summary states the downtown district is significant due to community planning and development, commerce, politics/government, transportation and architecture.
In addition to national and statewide recognition of an area’s history, Cherry-Farmer said there was another immediate benefit of being listed: tax breaks.
“But the number one benefit of owning property in a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places is tax incentives. Owners of national register-listed residential properties in Georgia may qualify for state tax credits and preferential tax assessments if they’re undertaking major rehabilitation work,” she said. “Owners of income-producing properties, also known as commercial properties, may be eligible to take advantage of both federal and state tax incentives for completing major rehabilitation work.
“Both the state and federal credits are applied to income taxes, so they’re not going to affect the property tax base here in Cartersville, but they’re an incentive that you all and HPC can use to help people understand, ‘Why is the national register important?’ Because it’s going to incentivize investment — responsible investment — here in Cartersville’s downtown.”
However, Cherry-Farmer explained, being listed does not automatically protect a property or limit what an owner may do it.
“Most people feel once a building is listed it is protected because certain things cannot be done to it and they feel, in that same way, if your property is listed as a private property owner your property rights are impacted, and neither of those things are true. The national register is a recognition piece. It’s local designation that restricts what you can do,” she said.
The application to be included on the national register was filed in October 2013, said Cartersville City Planner Richard Osborne. He said the application grew out of creating the city’s new downtown master plan.
“As we put together the downtown master plan, we saw that there had been, in past years, efforts to make downtown nationally recognized. There were individual buildings, but the whole downtown commercial district was not nationally recognized. ... It just helps with business and marketing and from an economic development perspective. So although being listed on the National Register of Historic Places is ceremonial and not related to enforcement, once Cartersville’s downtown is nationally recognized there are no additional regulations. That’s a good thing,” he said.
Osborne credited Cartersville City Council member Dianne Tate and businessman John Lewis for their labors in laying the groundwork for a downtown historic district.
“They have been working on this project for years and so they really deserve the most amount of applause for getting this project the priority listing and really helping to talk to other stakeholders and let them know the importance of what this means,” Osborne said.
The state Historic Preservation Division gave the city a consultant, Beth Gibson, to help assemble the application. Gibson was loaned to Cartersville free of charge, Osborne added.
“Etowah Valley Historical Society, Bartow History Museum, they know the history of Cartersville so well and we can tell the story and paint the picture, but the consultant really helped refine down to step one, step two, step three, what was needed so that an outsider who knew nothing about Cartersville could look at an application packet and say Cartersville is worthwhile of recognition,” he said.
The review board will review Cartersville’s application Friday, Feb. 28, at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Commission office at 254 Washington St., Atlanta. Cherry-Farmer said the meeting will begin at 9 a.m., but Cartersville’s application will be handled in the afternoon to give any interested parties the ability to attend the meeting. If approved, the downtown area will be added to the state registry and property owners will be able to take advantage of state tax breaks. The application would then move to the national review board.