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Wednesday, 24 December 2008 16:00

Jackson board sets sights on historic property

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The Jackson County Planning Board is considering establishing a historic preservation commission to help maintain significant landmarks and districts.

Such a commission would regulate what kind of changes could be made to structures in areas designated as historic districts.

The county Planning Board recently discussed creating a historic preservation commission, but members say they are just beginning to look at the idea.

According to the State Historic Preservation Office, someone in a designated historic district must get permission from the local historic preservation commission before he makes changes, additions or demolitions to his property. To make such changes to a property in a historic district one must obtain a “certificate of appropriateness” from the commission.

The certificate of appropriateness is to ensure that changes are not made to a building that would cause it to be out of character with the other structures in the district. The commission would adopt guidelines of what is appropriate in districts.

If the county decided to form a historic preservation commission, the towns of Sylva and Dillsboro could also join.

Owners of landmarks are eligible for a 50 percent tax deferral, but those in districts are not. However, those in districts may experience stable property values because the character of the neighborhood, for instance, is being maintained.

Also, property owners in a district are comforted that others in the district will have to keep their homes in character with the area.

At the Planning Board’s meeting about two weeks ago, Stacy Merten, director of the Asheville/Buncombe Historic Resources Commission, spoke on the subject.

Merten said Asheville has several historic districts including Montford, which has about 600 homes dating from 1890 to 1920, and Biltmore Village. Most of the cottages in Biltmore Village were designed by architect Richard Sharp Smith, who also supervised the construction of the Biltmore Estate and was the architect of the Sylva courthouse.

Merten said there generally isn’t a problem in terms of property owners in historic districts not being allowed to do what they want with their homes. Vinyl siding is an example of something that may not be allowed in a historic district, she said.

She said most of the time people who live in proposed districts are in favor of the district being established.

“It protects their property value and gives them a sense of community pride,” Merten said.

According to the State Historic Preservation Office, some view the designation as an honor because it indicates they live in an area deserving protection.

However, she admitted that sometimes residents of districts are unhappy when they can’t do what they want to their homes.

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