There’s a move afoot in Sylva to designate some of the downtown area as a national historic district.
A study, expected to take about six months to complete, will help determine whether and which parts of town have enough historic aspects to qualify. First Citizens Bank is bankrolling the study.
Paige Roberson, executive director of the Downtown Sylva Association and the town’s economic planner, said the information gathered in the study would be shared with business owners. If 51 percent want to move forward and form a historic district, the issue would then come before Sylva town commissioners for a formal vote.
Individual homeowners can opt to have their houses included if historic standards are met.
“Sylva should be a pretty good candidate for a historic district,” Roberson said.
There are benefits to receiving such a designation, said Paul Benson, planning director for the town of Waynesville. Waynesville has three districts on the National Register: Frog Level, approved in 2002; Main Street, approved in 2009; and an expansion of the Main Street district to include nearby residential streets in 2010.
Benson said simply documenting historic buildings in town as part of the application process has proved valuable in and of itself.
“The Waynesville Historic Preservation Commission used this information in their walking tour publication,” Benson said. Property in the historic districts also have special protection from road widening, for example.
Benson said the primary benefit will “hopefully be the long term preservation of historic buildings and the character and quality of life they bring to the community.”
Canton also has an approved National Historic District.
Business owners with buildings included in a district can get a 40 percent tax credit to help pay for renovations, Roberson said. The designation does not limit what they can do with their buildings.
“Building owners can do anything they want,” she said, emphasizing the tax credit given for following historic standards is optional.
— By Quintin Ellison