Board Asks Commission For Certified Local Government Program

Half of Tuesday's City Commission Work Session was taken up with a request by the Manhattan Historic Resources Board's request for a Certified Local Government Program.

The program would give more control to the City on historic preservation reviews.

Presenters were Board members: Charles Bissey, Jan Borst, Ockert Fourie, Senior Planner and Karen Davis, AICP, Director of Community Development.

Here is a memo given to the Commission before the meeting:

BACKGROUND

In 1982, as a part of the Downtown Redevelopment project, the City Commission adopted two ordinances that addressed historic preservation issues. The first ordinance established the Historic Districts Review Board and a process for designating local landmarks and historic districts. The second ordinance established a Downtown Historic District (see map), which is still in existence today.

Adoption of these ordinances allowed property owners in the Downtown to take advantage of financial incentives for the repair and rehabilitation of buildings. A number of structures were improved, including the Wareham Hotel, First Bank building (now the Trust Company) and false metal fronts were removed from several structures. In order to take advantage of these incentives, property owners were required to seek review by the Historic Districts Review Board, and, in some cases, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Though all of the financial incentives have lapsed, the Board still continues to review projects in the District in an advisory capacity. As a side note, the City has been notified that recent legislation passed by the Kansas Legislature has re-created the tax credits available for historic structures in the Downtown Historic District.

In 1998 the Historic Districts Review Board sought and received direction from the City Commission to pursue ways to strengthen the City’s historic preservation activities. This led to the 1999 adoption of a Historic Preservation Ordinance, which became Chapter 17.5 of the City’s Code of Ordinances, (see attached copy). The Ordinance revised and replaced both of the original historic preservation documents that were adopted in 1982 to allow for the creation of a Manhattan Register of Historic Places and set forth a process to list locally significant Historic Structures, Sites and Districts through a public process involving the Board and the City Commission. Designation as a locally significant historic structure, site or district is established by an ordinance, which must identify significant historic features on the property or properties. Once designation occurs, any improvements made to significant historic features on the structure, site or buildings within a Historic District must obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness that is issued by the Historic Resources Board. In other words, if the front porch were found to be significant, any improvements made to the front porch would be subject to review by the Board. The Ordinance did not create any review procedure similar to the environs review done by the SHPO on properties listed on the State or National Register.

The Ordinance also changed the name of the Historic Districts Review Board to the Historic Resources Board. These changes did not affect the Downtown Historic District, which is still in existence today and allows these properties to be eligible for the newly passed tax credits.

DISCUSSION

The Historic Resources Board has discussed ways to promote Historic Preservation in the community and has recommended that the City apply for status under the Certified Local Government Program, which is operated by the U.S. Department of Interior and State Historic Preservation Office. This Program encourages the protection of historic properties and can provide funding for communities to investigate, recognize, and plan for the preservation of their historic resources.

The Certified Local Government Program, which was created by the National Historic Preservation Act, specifies the following five broad standards that must be met by a local government seeking this status:

1. The local government must enforce appropriate state and local legislation for the designation and protection of historic properties.

The provisions of the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance meets all the criteria as required for certification, which includes among other things the actual adoption of an Ordinance; the ability to recommend to the governing body the designation for protection of local historic districts and individual landmarks; the provisions requiring a public hearing for designation and design review matters; and criteria for alteration or demolition of locally designated properties.

Besides processing local nominations to the Manhattan Register of Historic Places, CLG status requires that the City, through the Historic Resources Board, review and comment on proposed local nominations to the National and State Register as well as modifications to those properties. In addition, the Historic Preservation Office would expect the Board to review and comment on any of the environs reviews it is undertaking in the community.

2. The local government must establish an adequate and qualified historic preservation commission through a local ordinance.

The City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance makes provision for the establishment of the Historic Resources Board to meet this requirement. During the application process the State will require that resumes of the existing Board be submitted in order to review the qualifications of these individuals.

3. The local government must maintain a system for the survey and inventory of historic properties.

Under the Power and Duties of the Historic Resources Board, as established by the Historic Preservation Ordinance, the Board may "Recommend to the City Commission that the city conduct an ongoing survey to identify historically and architecturally significant properties, structures, and areas that exemplify the cultural, social, economic, political, or architectural history of the nation, state, or city." The Board considers this to be one of its first priorities and the main purpose of seeking City Commission support for participating in the Certified Local Government Program. Upon its designation as Certified Local Government the City will be eligible to apply for available CLG grant funds for local preservation projects. Eligible activities include historic property surveys, preparation of nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, educational activities, and preparation of historic preservation plans and design guidelines.

Funding for CLG grants comes from the Historic Preservation Fund, a Federal grant program administered by the National Park Service, which provides financial support to State Historic Preservation Offices. Under the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act, the State is required to award at least 10% of its annual allocation of Historic Preservation Fund monies to CLG’s. In 2001 a total of $214,214 was awarded for twenty projects across the state, 66 percent of which went to CLG communities.

These grants are awarded on a 60/40 split with the City being responsible for 40% of the project costs. The City share can also utilize in-kind match from City staff or volunteers.

4. The local government shall provide for adequate public participation in the local historic preservation program, including the process of recommending properties for nomination to the National Register.

The existing Historic Preservation Ordinance also meets this requirement by establishing specific processes and procedures that create opportunities for public participation in local historic preservation programs.

In looking into the potential of participating in the Certified Local Government program, an important consideration for City Administration and the Board was the concern over staffing requirements for such a program. Currently the Board is provided with a staff liaison from the Community Development Department. Neither the liaison, nor any other Community Development staff have any formal training in historic preservation issues, especially in the review of listed historic sites.

There are currently nine (9) communities or counties participating in the Program, including Abilene, Doniphan County, Hutchinson, Kansas City, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Newton/North Newton, Salina and Wichita. Five of the nine CLG communities in Kansas have also elected to assume responsibility for "environs review". An environs review occurs in all cases where application is made for the demolition, new construction, exterior alterations infill construction, or related new construction of a building performed within 500 feet of a historic structure or site listed on either the National Register of Historic Places or the Register of Historic Kansas Places. The SHPO presently undertakes this function for the City of Manhattan. The City referred 12 development applications to the State Historic Preservation Officer for an environs review during 2000. To assume responsibility for environs review communities are required to sign a State Law Transfer Agreement with SHPO, which is separate from the Certified Local Government agreement

City Administration contacted four of the five CLG communities that have elected to participate in this program. They included Salina, Hutchinson, Wichita and Leavenworth and all have signed a State Law Transfer Agreement to assume full responsibility for the environs review. In addition to providing additional access to grant funding, the main reason cited for certification was the greater control that it provided over local historic preservation. However, due primarily to the technical requirements of assuming the environs review function, all of these communities have either a full time, or part time, preservation specialist on staff. (see attached summary)

In recognizing the realities of current fiscal constraint, the Historic Resources Board is proposing that the environs review function not be assumed at this time. This would allow for access to CLG grant funds, while responsibility for the more technical environs review function remains with the State Historic Preservation Office. However, City Administration would point out that staff time would still be needed to assist the Board with its new responsibilities as a CLG. Those duties will involve annual reporting to the State, additional training needed to educate the Board and staff liaison on preservation issues, grant writing duties, and the review of National and State Register projects as well as the responsibility to comment on environs review projects. Currently the Board is provided a staff liaison through the Community Development Department, which takes about 10 hours of time per month. The addition of CLG status will increase the dedication of staff resources, possibly up to 20 hours a month, depending on the types of activities the Board undertakes. Unknown at this point is the staff time that will be necessary to commit should a preservation grant be received.

If CLG duties are absorbed within the Community Development Department, work priorities of current staff will need to be realigned in order to balance these new responsibilities with existing activities. Because some of these new duties will be the result of applications or activities that need to be acted upon within a specific timeframe, it is likely they will take precedence over non-application activities. In addition it will be necessary to provide training to existing staff.

The application process for the Certified Local Government Program is as follows: The City submits a request for CLG certification to the Kansas State Historic Preservation Officer. The request for certification must be accompanied by:

o A signed certification agreement (See attached)

o A copy of the local historic preservation ordinance.

o A list and accompanying maps of any area or areas already designated as historic districts as well as individual landmarks.

o Resumes for each of the members of the Historic Resources Board. This would include, where appropriate, credentials of members with expertise in the fields related to historic preservation.

After having determined the CLG application meets all of the requirements, the State forwards the request to the Secretary of the Interior for review. If the Secretary does not take exception to the request within fifteen working days of receipt, the Certified Local Government status is in place.

RECOMMENDATION

The Historic Resources Board is recommending that the City Commission apply for status as Certified Local Government, without the local environs review duties. Members of the Board will be present at the Work Session to make a presentation on the CLG program and answer questions from the Commission.