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Local Preservationists, Developers Fighting to Keep Historic Tax Credits

Brent Warren Brent Warren Local Preservationists, Developers Fighting to Keep Historic Tax CreditsPhoto by Walker Evans.
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A proposal from Republicans in the State Senate to impose a two-year moratorium on the popular state historic tax credit program has spurred a coalition of preservationists, architects, and developers into action. An online petition posted Thursday by the Columbus Landmarks Foundation opposing the proposal has quickly garnered over 1,300 signatures, and a steady stream of calls and emails in support of the program have been received by Senate Finance Committee members.

Nancy Recchie, who has utilized the tax credits for dozens of projects in Columbus and throughout the state as a historic preservation specialist at Benjamin D. Rickey & Co., said that the proposal to suspend the program has “taken everybody by surprise,” especially given the bi-partisan support the program had received in the past and the fact that the tax credit was made permanent just two years ago.

“This program has demonstrated its effectiveness,” she added. “Projects receive the credit only after all expenditures have been made and documented and a project completed. These projects create jobs, take vacant and underutilized buildings and increase the local tax base…they improve surrounding property values and bring vitality back to deteriorated areas of cities and towns across the state.”

An incomplete list of local projects that have utilized state historic tax credits for renovations and restoration includes the Leveque Tower, the Atlas Building, the Julian, the Yankee Trader building, the YWCA, and the recent proposal to restore the long-vacant Madison’s Department Store (and two adjacent buildings) on High Street just north of Gay Street.

The language to suspend the program was inserted into the Senate’s state budget proposal. It was not a part of the House’s budget, and whether or not the language will be stripped out or changed when the two versions are reconciled is not known.

Scott Ziance, an attorney with Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease, testified at a hearing Thursday evening in support of the tax credits, stressing that any proposed changes to the program should be debated in the fall and not inserted at the last minute into a budget bill.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last week that Republicans were standing by the proposed moratorium, raising the possibility of eventually restoring it as a grant program.

Recchie argues that the way the program is currently set up is so effective, it makes little sense to alter it.

“It ought to be a model for state programs because the economic impact is documented,” she said. “If every tax credit or tax deduction were handled as well as this program, people would be a lot happier with government.”

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