Victoria considers adopting historic preservation program

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Aug. 25, 2013 at 3:25 a.m.

Victoria City Council will decide Tuesday whether to adopt a grant program to finance historic restoration projects.

The council reviewed the plan at the Aug. 20 meeting, in which some community members and historians suggested offering not just financial help but also tax incentives for restoration.

City Councilman Tom Halepaska, who worked on the committee to create the program, said he wanted to give the city a starting point for a policy.

"It's to provide a mechanism that might help preserve some of the more historic structures in Victoria," Halepaska said.

The program would provide a 50/50 match up to $20,000 for facade restoration or other improvements.

The council agreed Aug. 20 to give $30,000 from the hotel occupancy tax fund, which can be spent only on projects that promote tourism.

"It's to preserve something that shouldn't be wasted," Halepaska said. "The people who built this town, little by little, all paid with their tax money, just as we are doing today. It's a shame to let some of these historic buildings go away."

To qualify for the program, properties must be listed on the Historic Resources Survey of Victoria or have been constructed at least 50 years before the application date.

All taxes and government fees and assessments must be current, and the property cannot be subject to an order for demolition.

Applicants are encouraged to follow the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.

Grant applications would be reviewed by a committee made up of representatives from Victoria County Historical Commission, Victoria Preservation Inc. and Victoria City Council districts 1 and 5. The city attorney and development services director would also serve on the committee.

VPI President John Kisalus said the incentive program is long overdue.

He said he wants to see tax incentives for historic preservation.

After a small home on Vine Street was restored, the home's appraised value went up 40 percent.

"That discourages people from investing in our historic community," he said.

Former VPI Director Gary Dunnam encouraged owners of historic buildings to register their properties during the initial presentation.

He said people check before traveling why they should visit a place, what happened there, who lived there and the type of architecture.

"People should not be afraid to have their properties listed," Dunnam said.

Halepaska said the program brings mixed emotions.

"We like to look at those old houses, but I wouldn't give 2 cents for one," he said. "Either side of this you can argue. ... One side says it's a shame that we tear down these beautiful old buildings. The other side says just because it's old, doesn't mean it's historically significant or worth saving."



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