The lion’s share of the architectural documentation needed to qualify Crozet’s older sections as a state and national historic district was finished in 2008 but the final application papers that would make the district official were never completed and submitted to state officials. Now the final submission deadline is on the horizon. The survey of Crozet properties done then by Jennifer Hallock of Arcadia Preservation, a Keswick-based company that offers a variety of services related to the preservation of historic buildings, is no longer valid after five years elapse. The Crozet Community Association, joined by the Downtown Crozet Association, has taken up the cause and is trying to get the historic designation official by next year.
Hallock originally surveyed about 300 buildings around downtown, and the proposed district boundary incorporates 175 structures.
After consulting with state officials in the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, who reviewed the Preliminary Information Form Hallock submitted in 2008, she learned that they require a return visit to all the properties within the proposed district boundary to update the description of their condition and appearance. Hallock then set her price to finish the job at $4,500, and the CCA and DCA are setting out to raise the money.
Once the district is official, property owners in it can qualify for tax credits for their rehabilitation expenses on their buildings. Residential properties can get a state tax credit for 25 percent of renovation costs. Commercial properties would also qualify for a 20 percent federal tax credit, bring their reimbursement up to 45 percent of rehab costs. Only buildings at least 50 years old qualify.
“The PIF submitted in 2008 was approved [by state officials], but it has to be expanded,” Hallock explained. “It’s been dormant since 2008. If the money had been there to do it, we could have submitted the nomination form then and been done.”
Since then, Hallock has also handled the creation of the Greenwood-Afton Rural Historic District, an effort paid for privately by Greenwood-area citizens. The 2007-08 field work was funded by a $12,500 grant from the VDHR that was matched by Albemarle County and the Piedmont Environmental Council. The sponsors wanted to raise public awareness about Crozet’s social and economic history, coordinate Crozet’s downtown development with historic preservation goals and stimulate private investment to renovate older buildings.
“If we get started now, it will be totally registered a year from now,” Hallock said. If the documentation process is not wrapped up by 2013, it will have to start all over again from square one. “We’re in a good spot to finish it up now,” said Hallock.
“We have to make sure nothing has changed since 2008, nobody demolished something or added an addition,” she explained “We’ll have to look at all our historical descriptions.
“Crozet’s historic district is important to the County’s history and it’s intact,” Hallock said. “It has survived and we should honor it and help people fix up their buildings with tax credits.
“There is such a sense of place in architecture. It’s important to have that sense and for Crozet to look like Crozet and not some everywhere-in-America.”
“I’d love to submit the nomination forms to the state review board in time for their September quarterly meeting,” she said. “Otherwise we would have to wait until December for them to act on it.”
The state review panel has already agreed that old Crozet meets the criteria for establishing a district. Hallock said that once the nominations forms are submitted and the state confirms that all the documentation is in order, Crozet will automatically go on Virginia’s Historic Register. Next, state officials will send the Crozet documents to federal officials and they should give their approval for federal designation on the National Register of Historic Places within 90 days.
A public meeting will be held in Crozet 30 days before the nomination to the state review board is submitted, VDHR officials will come to answer questions about the district.
Property owners who want to apply for tax credits will have to agree before starting their renovations to conform to the Secretary of the Interior’s Rehabilitation Standards, Hallock explained.
“They are very broad,” she said. “They say, ‘New construction has to be able to be read from the old.’ They don’t want things chopped up and changed around. But there is flexibility. They also don’t want new things that are made to look old. There is no architectural review board, which is what people worry about.”
“It’s a dollar-for-dollar tax credit,” Hallock explained. “So commercial properties can piggyback the credits and get back 45 percent of their expenses. It has really helped people. It helps you maintain the integrity of the house. The credit offsets the cost of doing the right thing for the resource.”
There are no fine-print strings attached to being an historic district, Hallock said.
“It’s only honorary. No limitations are imposed. National registry is designed to be non-regulatory. It’s a documentary tool. All the regulations are the local ones.”
“You need to have a sort of big renovation—roofing, mechanical systems—if you want to apply for the credits,” said Hallock, whose firm also handles documentation for the credits approval process. “It’s really helpful for commercial properties because they get both the state and federal credits. Homeowners just get the state credit.”
The nomination form sets out the significance of the proposed historic district and gives an architectural description of it, Hallock said. “It will explain why the district is cohesive.”
“The CCA should take the lead in this,” said CCA president Tim Tolson. “I’m excited about the district moving forward. The tax credits could make a difference in a decision about whether to renovate commercial buildings in downtown Crozet. And we need to complete the nomination now. If the Supervisors go ahead with construction of Crozet library as we hope, the community is facing a major fundraising challenge—$1.6 million—to furnish and stock the library. We should get the historic district fundraising finished first.”
The CCA and DCA will send a letter to property owners who will be eligible for tax credits, asking them to make a donation toward the cost of the submission. A square dance being planned for Greenwood Community Center March 9 will raise donations for the district.