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Flat Rock landmarks could be eligible for tax breaks

FLAT ROCK — The owners of Historic Landmarks in Flat Rock can now apply for a substantial break on their property tax bill.

The Flat Rock Village Council in its Dec. 13 meeting adopted a local ordinance that gives qualifying properties a 50 percent reduction on their property taxes as long as they don't demolish, move or substantially alter the structure.
The ordinance, drafted by Councilman Ron Davis, a retired attorney, and reviewed by town attorney Sharon Alexander, is aimed at preserving landmarks that embody Flat Rock's culture and history.
"I think it's wonderful," said Rick Merrill, president of Historic Flat Rock Inc., which works to promote and protect historic structures. "I actually think you're going to see a fair number apply just because they can get a 50 percent tax break."
Many landowners will gladly accept the historic designation, he predicted, because it poses little burden for a tax savings of thousands of dollars.
"In exchange (for the 50 percent tax reduction), all he's got to do is promise never to tear it down and to somewhat maintain it and that's not a hard ask," he said. "Why would you not want to do it if all you've got to do is not change the exterior and not tear it down? You can do what you want inside."
The mayor will appoint three members from the Village Council to serve on the Historic Landmarks Commission. Terms are four years.
The ordinance directs the Commission to produce a historic landmarks inventory from the National Register of Historic Places and from work Historic Flat Rock Inc. has completed. Historic Flat Rock is currently working on a renomination of 200 Flat Rock structures, Merrill said.
The commission can recommend property for inclusion on the landmarks list that have historic, architectural or cultural significance and that possess "integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association."
The commission will notify the property owner that his or her property has been nominated for designation as a historic landmark. If the property owner does not want the designation, they need do nothing; the commission will drop it.
"People have to take that extra step in order to do it," said Judy Boleman, the village zoning administrator. "They have to proactively want it."
Owners of properties that receive the historic designation must apply for a certificate of appropriateness for substantial changes to the exterior. Major work must be approved by the commission; the zoning administrator can approve minor work.