The Preservation Society of Fall River joined preservation organizations around the country in submitting objections to the National Park Service on proposed rule changes to the National Register if Historic Places nominating process.
The following is the letter sent:
To whom it may concern,
The Preservation Society of Fall River strenuously objects to the proposed rule changes for nominations to the National Register of Historic Places and how properties are determined eligible and added.
As preservationists in a “Gateway City” with substantial low-income housing and neighborhoods, the proposed changes would only serve to unfairly punish our community, which depends upon every advantage to promote preservation so we may maintain our sense of community and prevent loss of our historic structures.
The proposed rules radically change the process for recognizing federal properties as historic places by allowing a federal agency to effectively block a historic property from being listed on the National Register. This change would impact post offices, U.S. Government facilities, buildings significant to our proud military history, which are often critical to the character of our city and serve as local landmarks and evidence of our nation’s architectural legacy.
The consequences of the proposed procedures have serious negative impacts on the intent of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The Section 106 consultation process is key to consideration of federally owned historic resources in agency planning processes. Under the proposed rules, the federal agency, not the Keeper of the National Register, will determine whether a federal property is worthy of consideration for protection under the NHPA. Also important is the right under the NHPA for any person or local government to appeal the failure of a nominating authority to nominate a property. To remove federal properties from an appeals process would be contrary to the law and would alter an existing process that is currently fair and open.
Creation of historic districts has long been one of the most effective means for providing recognition and protection to historic properties. Listing historic districts in the National Register is sometimes of paramount importance to property owners because it can qualify contributing properties for incentives otherwise not available. Federal tax credits for rehabilitation of historic properties are a proven preservation and community revitalization tool. This incentive is only available to properties either individually listed or certified to contribute to the significance of National Register Historic Districts. The process for qualifying properties for tax incentives as part of a historic district is at risk now because of the proposed change, which would allow federal agencies owning a property in a proposed historic district to object to the historic district nomination and prevent its listing.
Another threat to historic district nominations relates to the provision under the law that if a majority of private property owners object to a nomination, it will not be listed. The proposed revision would allow large property owners to be given an outweighed ability to block nominations by counting the majority of the land area in addition to the current counting of one private owner, one vote. There is no statutory authority to make this change and any such change would place a near impossible burden on State Historic Preservation Officers.
The rule as proposed in docket #NPS-2019-0001 would dramatically impact the ability of properties to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and harm not only Fall River’s history, but the nation’s. We strongly urge you to reconsider these changes.
Jim Soule, President
Preservation Society of Fall River, Board of Directors