Charlotte can have a reputation for being a “new” city, a city that likes to tear down old stuff in favor of better, sleeker, versions.
Who and what is responsible for making sure that the past is preserved?
Answer: The Historic Landmarks Commission.
What is the Historic Landmarks Commission?
According to the Historic Landmarks Commission’s website, their fundamental purpose is to recommend the designation of properties for Historic Landmark designation and to secure the preservation of these landmarks.
What does the Historic Landmarks Commission do?
The HLC has four ways to protect property and preserve Charlotte Landmarks.
- Recommends properties to be designated as Historic Landmarks.
- Buys and sells endangered historic landmarks
- Reviews designs of alterations to Historic Landmarks
- Educates the public about Historic Landmarks
Who is on the HLC? How does one get selected?
The commission has 12 members. The Board of County Commissioners appoints 6 members, the Charlotte City Council appoints 4 members, and the Mayor of Charlotte appoints 2 members.
Each member is appointed on a 3 year term but can be reappointed.
What are some of Charlotte’s Historic Landmarks?
There are more than you’d probably think. According to the HLC’s website, there are actually 472 entries that are designated as Historic Landmarks. A couple of noteworthy places are the Delburg Cotton Mill House, many of the Charlotte Fire Stations, Atherton Cotton Mills, Carolina Theater, and Bryant Park.
But Historical Landmarks aren’t just pretty buildings or super old stuff.
[Agenda story: 355 historic properties in Mecklenburg County, mapped]
Landmarks can be private property or skyscrapers, even moveable objects. The only requirement is historical significance. There is no age requirement.
What makes a property qualify as historical?
The HLC prepares a Survey and Research Report that documents the historical significance of a landmark. Then, this report is sent to the North Carolina Division of Archives and History which either approves or rejects the designation. Regardless of their decision, a joint hearing is scheduled with the local governing board. If the local governing board agrees to designate the property as a historic landmark, an ordinance is sent to the owners of the property.
Basically, if the HLC and the local governing board both think the property has historical significance. It does.
There’s also a “Study List” which consists of properties that the Commission believes are potentially are eligible to become designated historical landmarks but that aren’t yet.
Check that out here.
So what happens if you’re house gets on the list?
There are a couple of consequences if your property is designated as a landmark.
- Before changing the property, the owner needs to get a certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Landmarks Commission. And the HLC can review designs for alterations to designated Historical Landmarks.
- The demolition of an Historic Landmark can be delayed up to a year, giving the local governing board time to exercise eminent domain.
- A sign that indicates that the property is an historical landmark may be placed on the property. Or, if the owner objects, in the nearest public area close to the property.
- Officials of the HLC can enter onto the grounds of the Historic Landmark in order to conduct inspections. But access to inspect the interior requires approval from the owner.
Does the property owner get a tax break or an incentive?
Yes, there is an actual upside to all of this.
Owners of designated Historic Landmarks can apply for an automatic deferral of 50% of the local property taxes on the landmark.
However, if at any point the local governing board removes the designation of the property as an Historical Landmark, the owner would be required to pay back the full taxes plus a penalty. Ouch.