Schoharie considers National Register Historic District designation


By David Avitabile

Schoharie Village officials are deciding whether to seek a National Register Historic District designation for most of the village.
Village board members and about a dozen residents heard a presentation from a consultant and an official from the state Historic Preservation Office Thursday night.
The village received a grant to look into seeking a designation, Mayor John Borst noted.
Village officials briefly considered a designation 20 years ago but there many fears about regulations, he noted.
After listening to the consultant and the official from the state, "I think our fears were totally unfounded," he said
Jessie Ravage, a consultant from Cooperstown, has done an extensive survey of the village and photographed all the structures that would be in an historic district and detailed why Schoharie is deserving of such a designation.
Emily Gould of the state Historic Preservation Office outlined the advantages of the designation.
A main one was tax credits for owners and commercial and private homes for rehabilitation work.
Owners could get tax credits updates and upgrades to furnaces, electrical systems. plumbing, roofs, and other repairs. Tax credits for commercial buildings could amount to up to 40 percent and the credit for homeowners could be up to 20 percent.
Not all repairs are eligible, she noted. In general, in order for work to qualify for the three state historic preservation tax credits, it needs to preserve the overall historic character of the building.
Though the work has to meet certain guidelines to be credited, the state does not tell owners what to do with their property, she added.
"It's not a penalty, it's an incentive," Ms. Gould explained.
There are no regulations that effect people in their homes and "tell them what to do," she added.
"We're trying to help you preserve it," she said. "It's not about control, it's about recognition...
"There's a bonus attached to it, but it's up to the homeowner whether to take advantage of that."
Ms. Ravage added, "It's a way to bring money back to the community."
Schoharie is a prime area for a designation, Ms. Ravage added.
"This is a very important place."
The history in the area, the homes, the school, the library, the Main Street are all important.
Schoharie has a number of things to capitalize on.
"A beautiful place with a sense of history does draw people," she noted.
It will be up to village officials on whether to seek the designation.
The main cost will be the fee for preparing the nomination.
Ms. Ravage said that cost could be about $10,000 or so if the district encompasses most of the village (about 350 properties). Homes older than 50 years old would be eligible for grants.
The proposed district would be most of the village except for cultivated and uncultivated land with no buildings, she noted. There was a suggestion to extend the district outside the limits of the village.
It is important to publicize the process as much as possible so there are no surprises for property owners. A public meeting is recommended. All properties would be in the district, though only homes older than 50 years old would qualify for tax credits.
The process is lengthy.
A request for a workshop on rehabilitation tax credits should be made in January or February of 2017. Grant applications and other requests would be made next year. If the village decides to go ahead, the state historic preservation office will send notification letters to property owners in the fall of 2018 followed by a public meeting.
The state review board will meet to consider designations in December 2018 and, if approved, the district could be listed in March 2019, according to Ms. Ravage.
Information about the process will be put on the village website.