Senate committee approves Brock’s historic grant bill

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The North Carolina Senate’s Finance Committee on Tuesday passed a measure allowing counties and cities to give grants or loans for historic restoration.

Sen. Andrew Brock, R-34, is one of two primary sponsors of the bill, which adds historic rehabilitation to a portion of state law that allows for economic development incentives. Speaking after the bill’s passage, Brock separated his measure from a state historic tax credit that’s already passed the House. He said allowing counties and cities to provide money for local historic rehabilitation is needed regardless of the state’s historic tax credit’s outcome.

Some cities, including Salisbury, already have grant programs in place for historic rehabilitation. Salisbury’s program was passed by the city council in late 2014.

“We thought that if the towns want to take it upon themselves to do this, then we’ll give them that ability to do it and have the tool in their tool belt,” Brock said. “It allows locals to use their money, so they can have just as much skin in the game as the state does. They can benefit directly from projects that affect them.”

Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz spoke during Tuesday’s committee meeting and said Brock’s bill should not be a substitute for the restoration of a state historic tax credit program.

“Tax credits, as we know them today, were initiated and promoted by President (Ronald) Reagan as a truly conservative public-private partnership,” Kluttz said. “Historic preservation is an economic development and job creation tool for our state and is needed in every community, not just in those that can afford it.”

As a part of her efforts to revive the credits, Kluttz has toured North Carolina. Some of the stops included Gov. Pat McCrory. In her speech during the committee meeting, Kluttz said the state’s historic tax credit program had been used in 90 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

“The buildings in our state tell us a story about hour state’s history,” she said. “It’s the North Carolina story. The story tells us who we are and where we’ve been as a state.”

The City of Salisbury has two different programs, one for residential buildings and another for commercial properties.

The residential grant program is awarded based on a points system. The categories in the points system are historic significance, project type, project cost and income criteria.

Salisbury’s commercial grant program also depends on the type of project. The commercial version, however, has a maximum possible grant amount of $200,000 that’s paid in one lump sum once construction is complete.

Paul Woodson, Salisbury mayor, said Salisbury’s grant program has been beneficial for commercial development — the former Bernhardt Hardware Building’s restoration used it for example — but a full restoration of the state’s tax credit would be needed to truly provide an incentive for historic restoration.

“I really feel like a lot of buildings just won’t be done at all,” Woodson said about a failure to restore the state’s tax credit. “If they don’t bring back the historic tax credits, I don’t think the Empire Hotel will ever come to fruition. I don’t think anybody would do it.”

A City of Salisbury grant, state historic tax credit and federal credit would provide significantly more incentive than if the legislature fails to pass a version of the state historic credit, Woodson said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246