Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Gimme Shelter

Dear Readers, the Growler would advise you to sit down while you are reading this posting. Loosen your collar and make sure there are no sharp objects lying about.

Because if you own a historic home in Parker-Gray and have sunk money into its restoration, you will be apoplectic or homicidal when you read the next paragraph.

While juicy federal and state tax credits are available for residents who fix up historic properties in neighborhoods like Old Town, Rosemont, Del Ray, and Parkfairfax, City officials have never bothered to go after the same benefits for Parker-Gray property owners.

The rehabilitation tax credits are dollar-for-dollar reductions in income tax liability for taxpayers who rehabilitate historic buildings. The federal credit is 20% of eligible rehabilitation expenses, while the state credit is 25%. Some taxpayers may qualify under both programs, allowing them to claim tax credits of as much as 45% of their outlay.

Why can’t Parker-Gray residents claim these credits?

Well, the credits are available only for “Certified Historic Structures,” meaning the buildings must be individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places or the Virginia Landmarks Registry, or certified as contributing to a historic district listed in either Register.

The Parker-Gray Historic District has been eligible for inclusion in both registries since 1990, but City bureaucrats have failed to take action to get the district listed. It remains a locally designated historic district.

Lest you think, dear reader, that this long delay may just be due to lack of City resources, let the Growler point out that Parkfairfax was added to both registries in 1998-99.

Furthermore, officials at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) have pressed Alexandria historic preservation staff in meetings to go after state grants that could pay for a consultant to conduct the required survey and fill out the paperwork necessary to get Parker-Gray listed. DHR can even help identify the consultant and manage the contract. But they have gotten the brush-off.

And to add insult to injury, unlike residents of Rosemont, Del Ray and Parkfairfax, we in Parker-Gray have the pain of dealing with a highly subjective Board of Architectural Review but get none of the gain.

So if it’s not a matter of money, time or staffing, why the discriminatory treatment of Parker-Gray?

And why are residents put on the rack about vinyl windows and Hardiplank when the City treats it as a second class historic district? Why is there a stick but no carrot?