historic moments for Mt. Lebanon neighborhoods
Recently, I presented a three year strategy for historic preservation to the Commission on behalf of the Historic Preservation Board (HPB), and wanted to give you a glimpse of what I shared with them.
In recent years, historic preservation has become an integral part of community planning in Lebo. The HPB had representation in the development of the standing Strategic Plan, and board members Bill Callahan and Joel Cluskey served on a committee for the development of the impending Comprehensive Plan. We are also well on our way to securing National Register designation! We drew the historic district boundary, recruited an exceptional cadre of volunteers to help inventory properties, and got the green light from Harrisburg to pursue the nomination. We are proud of these accomplishments, but mindful that much work still needs to be done.
There are a variety of tools we can use for historic preservation. The first is design guidelines. Design guidelines provide advice on best-practices in repairing, maintaining and rehabilitating historic buildings/landscapes. Such guidelines could benefit communities like Virginia Manor, where some residents seek to actively maintain the historic character of their neighborhood.
The National Register, though honorific in nature, comes with an incentive for historic preservation for some property owners, making it an exceptional tool. Income-producing properties listed as contributing to our historic district will become eligible for a federal historic rehabilitation income tax credit. Owners of historic rental properties can use the credit to make restorations that might now be out of reach. Private home owners will not benefit directly from this tax credit, but they should not fear any strings attached to National Register designation. It places NO RESTRICTIONS on private property; it creates no new level of bureaucracy for home owners in the sale, renovation or demolition of their properties.
The municipality has two options for historic preservation zoning: a Historic District Act (HDA) ordinance and preservation zoning as outlined in the PA Municipalities Planning Code. An HDA ordinance might be the best tool to use in a community like Virginia Manor, which has a high concentration of historic properties and considerable interest among residents in seeing them preserved. Preservation zoning, on the other hand, is a tool that can be used to manage scattered historic resources, and can be enacted without the involvement of the PA Historic and Museums Commission, unlike an HDA ordinance.
Lastly, in my presentation, I thanked Commissioner Matt Kluck for serving as our board liaison. Commissioner Kluck has been an active and attentive presence at our board meetings. You might have heard that he will not seek re-election but we are confident that we have a life-long advocate for historic preservation in Matt.
Should we be granted the Historic Designation, Mt Lebanon will be in a very good position to enhance, protect and market its unique heritage and history.
National Historic Districts attract business, homeowners and development. It could allow for our older commercial buildings to see significant investments in rehabilitation.
Well done Yvette, Bill and Joel.