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Use of Barn Tax Incentive Continues to Grow

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Eighty-eight towns and cities in New Hampshire are now using the state's tax incentive program to encourage historic barn preservation. According to data collected by the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration, by the close of 2014, 480 historic structures were enrolled in the program. RSA 79D authorizes towns and cities to grant property tax relief to barn owners who can demonstrate the public benefit of preserving their barn or other older farm buildings, and agree to maintain them throughout a minimum 10-year preservation easement.

Randolph was the newest municipality to join the program. Meredith and Rumney joined the previous year.  Peterborough continues to lead the state with the number of structure protected at 23, with Plainfield second at 18, and Cornish and Kensington tied for third at 17 each. Deerfield, Hopkinton, Concord, Fitzwilliam, Orford, Alton, Dublin, Hampton, Loudon, Lyme, New Boston and Sandwich all have ten or more structures aided and protected.

“We are encouraged that the use of the barn tax incentive program continues to grow,” said Beverly Thomas, Program Director, New Hampshire Preservation Alliance. “People across the state and their municipal leaders understand the significance of these historic structures, the opportunities to continue to use them in creative ways, and the value these barns bring to the scenic landscape of their communities,” she said.

Modeled after the state's open space discretionary easement program, the barn tax incentive allows municipalities to grant property tax relief to barn owners who can demonstrate the public benefit of preserving their barns or other old farm buildings while agreeing to maintain their structures through a 10-year renewable easement. In return, the local selectboard or city council provides tax relief of 25% to 75% of the full assessed value of the building and the land underneath it. In addition, the assessment will not increase as a result of maintenance or repair work that is performed while the easement is in effect.

Carl Schmidt, chair of the N.H. Historic Agricultural Structures Advisory Committee, is encouraged by the continued growth of the program but also noted that "this important tool is still under-utilized and I hope that more barn owners and municipalities embrace this opportunity to help save an essential part of our state’s character."  He commented that municipalities with strong barn preservation advocates or an active heritage commission or other group that helps guide selectboards or city councils make a big difference in the use of this tool.

 Barn owners interested in applying for the incentive to become effective in the coming tax year need to apply by April 15, 2015. Also of note is that easements that went into effect in the third year of the program (2005) for a ten-year term will expire on March 31, 2015. Property taxes on the relevant structures may then increase unless the easements are renewed.  Applications for renewal, like new applications, must be submitted to your local Selectboard on N.H. DRA form PA-36-A no later than April 15, 2015.

Applications can be obtained from your town office or download an information packet with application from the Alliance’s web-site www.nhpreservation.org or call 603-224-2281. Applications are also available at www.revenue.nh.gov/forms/2010/documents/pa-36a.pdf.

Additional features of the comprehensive barn preservation initiative directed by the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources and the Historic Agricultural Structures Advisory Committee include barn assessment grants, publications, tours and workshops, an information network, and a voluntary survey program. The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance is the state's nonprofit membership organization committed to preserving historic buildings, communities and landscapes through leadership, education and advocacy. The New Hampshire Historic Agricultural Structures Advisory Committee was established by state legislation in 1999 to support the preservation of N.H.’s historic barns and agricultural structures. The committee is comprised of representatives from state agencies, non-profit organizations and agricultural leaders.

Barn preservation information will be showcased February 6-7, 2015 at the Farm and Forest Expo at the Center of NH - Radisson Hotel Manchester, 700 Elm Street, Manchester, NH. (See www.nhfarmandforestexpo.org for information.)

Interested in a Road Map to Repair or Restore Your Old Barn?

 The N.H. Preservation Alliance provides competitive assessment grants for a barn preservation expert to comprehensively assess barns’ needs and issue an in-depth report.  Over 100 barn owners across New Hampshire have used these reports to address immediate stabilization and repair needs and general care and up-keep as well as tackle re-use strategies, budgeting and long-tem revitalization plans.

 The matching grants are available on a rolling basis.  Check www.nhpreservation.org or contact Beverly Thomas at the Preservation Alliance at (603) 224-2281 or bt@nhpreservation.org.

 

 

Planning Grants Available

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The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance announces that it is now accepting applications from non-profits and municipalities for grants to fund assessments or feasibility re-use studies of historic buildings. 

These planning grants are intended to provide a simple road map for appropriate treatments, cost estimates, and effective phasing for preservation work, or to develop re-use plans.  Over 20 projects have received funding to date, reported Maggie Stier, field service representative of the N.H. Preservation Alliance, noting that these grants have helped grant recipients make major progress toward their goals. The Players Ring in Portsmouth used the results of its assessment grant to complete roof and drainage work, insulate the building and re-negotiate their long-term lease with the City. The Middleton Heritage Commission used their assessment grant to study the Town Hall’s rare historic murals as well as overall building soundness and have received additional grants to treat the murals and the building. The Fells in Newbury completed a reconstruction of failing gutters and signature columns after receiving their assessment report on the historic summer home’s prominent veranda.  The failing porch at the Upper Village Hall in East Derry was repaired after a planning report outlined historical evidence and reconstruction standards, and today the local landmark is open to community uses again after facing the threat demolition.

The Preservation Alliance’s program is funded by a grant from the NH Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), and is designed to assist in saving and revitalizing community landmarks by providing a strong foundation for rehabilitation and re-use projects. Outcomes include success in attracting new uses, fund-raising, and management and completion of effective preservation work. “These activities support local jobs and local economies as well,” noted Stier. “We’re so appreciative of this strategic investment from LCHIP.”

The grants underwrite the services of experienced architects and/or preservation consultants or contractors who help clients understand the history and function of the building over time and identify and assess a building’s preservation needs.  Final written reports contain prioritized recommendations and estimates for what needs to be done, how to do it, and how much it will cost.  Grant awards may range from $1,000 to $4,500, and applicants must provide a 1:1 match, although total project costs may exceed $9,000. 

There are no application deadlines for the Alliance’s grant program. Applicants can expect a decision within eight weeks of acceptance of their completed application.  Pre-requisites include a site visit from the Preservation Alliance’s staff, and a determination from the N.H. Division of Historical Resources that the building is eligible for or listed to the N.H. State Register of Historic Places or the National Register of Historic Places.  The program excludes churches because of public sector grant-making limitations.  Grant guidelines and application forms are available at www.nhpreservation.org or by calling the N.H. Preservation Alliance at 603-224-2281.

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance is the state-wide membership organization dedicated to preserving historic buildings, communities and landscapes through education and advocacy  through other programs and assistance for old house and barn owners, community leaders and volunteers, and stewards of landmark properties such as churches, granges, and schools.

 

Tips from Downton Abbey for Project Planning and Preservation

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Are you enjoying season 5 of Downton Abbey? At the Preservation Alliance, we appreciate the series as a period drama, and found some “lessons learned” for our day to day historic preservation activity that we want to share with our members and friends:

Get help with basic stewardship. Big, old houses can feel like a lot of responsibility. As you think ahead to spring projects, the good news for you: We bet your house isn’t as expensive to run as the Crawleys; phased plans for keeping up with maintenance or big projects really work; and the Preservation Alliance has referrals and information to help.

 Be prepared.   When there was a fire in episode one, Lord Gratham was ready with a hose and sand.  Help ensure the safety of your property and the people inside by making sure you’ve checked your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors this month, have practical plans in place for power outages, and safely manage ice dams and snow loads on roofs this winter.

Address change with research, innovations and open-mind.  At its best, preservation celebrates the history of a place, while finding ways to keep it in use for future generations.  On the show, Mary and Tom seem to have forged a productive alliance with Lord Gratham to find ways to improve the profitability of the estate. Will they find ways to protect what’s best of the old while introducing new methods and a new housing development? (Lord Grantham noted that it would be more difficult to strive for a high-quality development, but worth the effort.) In real life, shared uses, uses of new technologies, new business models, tools like easements and tax incentives are possible aids when a landmark structure needs a boost to remain or regain viability.

Send us your ideas about winter project planning and preservation tips to Beverly Thomas at bt@nhpreservation.org.

 

Best of 2014

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Here is our take on some of the best of 2014, as we head toward a new year. The Preservation Alliance is grateful for members, donors and other partners who have helped shape the organization that we are today (and helped many people, projects and issues along the way).  Some highlights:

  • Many notable ribbon-cuttings including: the redevelopment of the Cotton Mill in Nashua, Walker School in Concord, Dearborn Hall in Manchester, Pine Valley Lofts in Milford and the restoration of the Belmont Bandstand. And important progress at Wolfeboro Town Hall, Middleton Town Hall, Boscawen library, Cheshire Railroad Stone Arch in Keene, Brown Company Barns in Berlin, and gas holder building in Concord.
  • Next generation preservationists in action. For example, graduate students from the University of Vermont have conducted important N.H. barn surveys in Lancaster and Enfield.
  • The Town of Greenfield was the first to work on a new preservation tool for New Hampshire – neighborhood heritage districts—thanks to a grant from the N.H. Housing Finance Authority, the Putnam Foundation and support from the Alliance.
  • Many property owners including the 7th-generation owner of the Josiah Bartlett House in Kingston are taking on the challenge of finding new owners and good stewardship for long-held family properties.
  • With LCHIP fully-funded, its board made grants this month to 25 outstanding preservation projects, with more legislative support than ever in the program’s 14-year history.  [The Alliance continues to serve as a lead advocate for the program, and LCHIP winners have benefited from our technical services. Of the 25 this round, the Alliance provided coaching to 18, gave planning grants to 9, and named five to Seven to Save.]
  • Friends and colleagues of Rick and Duffy Monahon came together to create a new fund that honors the legacy of their work and provides seed monies for preservation projects.
  • We’re exploring barn preservation issues in depth, and engaging new folks along the way, thanks to generous support of Jane and Peter McLaughlin, Colin and Paula Cabot, Greg Flowers and a memorial gift from his parents, John and Patricia Flowers.
  • More people say they know more about preservation than they did a year ago, and preservation is more visible than ever thanks to the inter-related work of our partners such as N.H. Division of Historical Resources, LCHIP, PlanNH, the Jordan Institute, N.H. Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, AIA-NH, CDFA, and the Animal Rescue League of N.H.

In 2015, we’ll be:

  • Investing in innovative strategies:  focusing on pre-development assistance as a way to meet real needs and provide road maps for success. Family farms, Main Street properties and non-profit-owned structures will be priorities.
  • Investing in new constituents: building upon our many effective partnerships and connections to people in the preservation trades; showcasing the next generation of preservationists; recognizing great work and inspiring others.

Save these dates: Preservation Conference (April 17) and Statewide Awards (May 12).   Please contact executive director Jennifer Goodman at 224-2281 or jg@nhpreservation.org with any questions or suggestions.    

 

Preservation Resolutions for 2015

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Hope you’ll consider some of these historic preservation resolutions as you create or refine your 2015 list.

Take care of your old home. Any ice dams? Other concerns? What’s included in your home maintenance plan? An energy audit can help you prioritize investments. Properly-installed insulation in your attic and around your foundation can offer major savings. “Re-tuning” old windows keeps cold air out and preserves original features of an old house.

Appreciate your community. Look at the place where you live (your street, road or neighborhood) and note how many historic buildings and structures you can see.  Show your kids the building where you went to school, or where you got married. Support your local farm, and thank a neighbor who has fixed up his or her barn. Are there places you can’t imagine your community without? Start a conversation with other interested citizens, and consider planning tools like easements and tax incentives to turn a challenge into an opportunity.

Be an advocate for preserving our heritage. Volunteer to serve on your local planning board, library board, cemetery commission, or downtown organization. Help with a local preservation project, or enjoy dinner in an old inn or theater in a historic venue. Talk to your legislator about the benefits of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, New Hampshire's popular and effective matching grants program for historic preservation and land conservation projects. E-mail the Preservation Alliance to receive preservation news updates.

Preservation activity creates local jobs and keeps more money circulating in local economies than new construction, and is part of the landscape that attracts visitors and businesses to New Hampshire. For you, this year, it also can be an activity that makes you feel good and connects you to special places, old friends and new ones.

 

36 Community Projects Granted LCHIP Funds

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Concord NH - Thirty-six historic, cultural, and land conservation projects throughout the state will receive grants this year from the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, or LCHIP. This morning in Concord, Governor Hassan and Senator Jeb Bradley greeted LCHIP grant recipients and spoke about the importance of land conservation and historic preservation to the state's economy, environment and quality of life. At a later event sponsored by the Preservation Alliance, Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests, Trust for Public Land and Nature Conservancy, Senate President Chuck Morse and Senator Jeff Woodburn also added their congratulations and spoke of their commitment to future funding for the program.

Thirty-six projects are receiving support, ranging from $7,430 for a study of Jones Hall in Marlow to $400,000 to permanently protect 1,114 acres in Epping. 

"LCHIP projects succeed thanks to the hard work of our state's non-profit organizations, town commissions and boards," says LCHIP Board Chair Doug Cole of D.S. Cole Growers, "and we are pleased to be able to support those efforts. While each project is special to its community, as a whole they represent the important natural, historic and cultural resources highly valued by New Hampshire's residents and visitors." 

This year's recipients include 26 historic properties dating from the 1764 Park Hill Meeting House in Westmoreland to the 1918 Peterborough Town House, and ten natural resource projects providing permanent protection of almost 3,000 acres. They are located in cities and towns in each of the ten counties of the state.

"In visiting the project sites," says LCHIP Executive Director Dijit Taylor, "I learn the stories behind the projects- stories about the second person to sign the Declaration of Independence (Josiah Bartlett) and the tree that he brought home from Philadelphia, the rare threatened or endangered species on the properties (although I can't tell you where those are), and the unusual brick house in Gilford where twenty-first century school children, using the same clay source as the original brick maker, made new bricks and then used them to edge the flower garden at the house." 

While applicants are required to raise $1.00 for each dollar received through LCHIP, historically the projects do far more, raising more than $7 for each LCHIP dollar granted. Funding for the LCHIP grants comes from a fee assessed when recording four types of documents at county Registries of Deeds. This is the second year in which LCHIP is receiving full funding.

Yet even with full funding, the expressed need for assistance this year was far larger than the amount of money available. LCHIP was unable to fund seventeen projects, although they too are important in their communities, so LCHIP's decision-making process was a challenging one for the 18-member Board of Directors.

The N.H. Preservation Alliance provided on-site technical services and coaching to 18 of the 25 historic preservation projects that received grants and nine had received planning grants to prepare for successful rehabiliations. Jennifer Goodman, the Alliance's executive director, added that five of the properties receiving grants had been listed on the organization's Seven to Save list, and she commended the project's leaders progress. Jeff Gilbert, vice chair of the Preservation Alliance board, acknowledged the tremendous bipartisan commitment for LCHIP.  LCHIP also awarded funds to the Preservation Alliance to continue its planning grants, and to help with the protection of the Bartlett House in Kingston.

LCHIP Grant Recipients by Town

 

About LCHIP

The New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program is an independent state authority that provides matching grants to New Hampshire communities and non-profits to protect and preserve the state's most important natural, cultural and historic resources. Its legislatively mandated mission is to ensure the perpetual contribution of these resources to the economy, environment and the quality of life in New Hampshire. Up until the current grant round, 325 LCHIP grants have helped 143 New Hampshire communities conserve more than 264,000 acres of land and 159 historic structures and sites. The $30 million of state money invested in these projects has leveraged more than $258 million in total project value. LCHIP grants are supported by fees on four documents recorded at the Registry of Deeds in every county of the state. For more information about LCHIP visit www.lchip.org

 

Saving Family Farms and the Historic Agricultural Landscape

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By Lorraine Merrill
Commissioner, N.H. Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food

Imagine New Hampshire without open fields and cows in pastures, without big white farmhouses, weathered barns, sugar houses, farm stands and stone walls. Though the scope and types of agriculture have varied throughout New Hampshire's history, the importance of family farms to our landscape and to our communities has not changed.  Today, the continued existence of many of these defining and much-loved living-history features of our state is at risk. Over the next 20 to 30 years we will experience an unprecedented generational shift in land ownership, which will put many family farm properties in jeopardy of being lost to agriculture.

In announcing its 2014 Seven to Save list of threatened historic landmarks in October, the Preservation Alliance named an eighth preservation priority:  the state’s historic family-owned farms and agricultural landscapes. Coincidentally,  the United Nations has declared 2014 the Year of the Family Farm, with the theme Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth.

In New Hampshire, with our high real estate costs, graying population, escalating property taxes, and changing economy, farms and farmland continue to be developed or sold at a rapid pace.  New agricultural practices and standards often make older barns obsolete.  Historic homes may be torn down or neglected in favor of newer, smaller structures, often because repairs and continued occupancy simply aren’t cost effective.  Farm owners often lack adequate capital to manage the cost burdens of large properties—especially young farmers starting out and older owners retired from farming but trying to hang on to property that has been in their family for generations.

From 1982 to 2007, New Hampshire lost one out of four acres of prime farmland to development—and it was much worse in the Seacoast region.  In Rockingham County, in just the five years from 1997 to 2002, one-third of prime farmland was lost to development.

While the most recent Agricultural Census showed New Hampshire farms increasing 5% from 2007 to 2012 (bucking the national trend of a 5% decline in the number of farms),  the same five-year period saw a 24% reduction in cropland acres and a 7% reduction in pasture land.

Working together, we can make progress to save and steward our farmland and family farms with land use policies, markets and stewardship.

First, mechanisms such as current use value taxation, tax credits for conservation, right-to-farm policies, and farm-friendly regulatory structures all help to support the legacy of farming in New Hampshire and should be continued and enhanced.  Planning regulations also affect the rate at which open lands, including farms and farmland, are consumed for development.

Second, farms must continue to evolve and respond to changing markets,  economics and new technologies. Strategies include renewable energy development and diversification of enterprises including value-added processing, agri-tourism, and direct-to-consumer marketing. New Hampshire ranks first in the nation for percentage of farm sales that are direct-to-consumer.

Third, agricultural conservation easements,preservation restrictions, and blended conservation and preservation easements are of critical importance to sustaining farms and farming in the Granite State. Increasingly, when farms and farmland are being sold,  inherited or leased to farmers,  a conservation easement is involved.

I know from my own family’s experience that farm-friendly land use regulations, evolving business practices, and the sale of development rights made the difference in keeping our large, coastal farm in family ownership and in agricultural use.

Our farm has survived and succeeded by changing with the times and with owners. It has been a diversified crop and livestock farm, a racehorse-breeding farm, a nationally-known dairy farm, a prominent poultry genetics farm, and now again a dairy farm. My family used an agricultural easement to protect the land and reduce its value more than thirtyyears ago, and more recently the farm—and its evolution over time—was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Preserving farms and agricultural land secures multiple and significant benefits to local communities and the state beyond preserving the capacity to produce food for future generations. New Hampshire farms often include more woodland than open cropland or pasture, along with wetlands and riparian lands. Protecting the farm or farmland protects these other valuable natural resources—including groundwater, surface water, and wildlife habitats. Farms generate local economic activity and jobs while maintaining the character and heritage of our state and communities.

Many organizations are involved in this issue, including the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food; USDA agencies; UNH Cooperative Extension; the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources; the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program; and the Preservation Alliance. A recent study of conservation in New Hampshire (available at www.tpl.org/nh-roi report) held up agricultural lands conservation as a critical issue. Local agricultural commissions, conservation commissions, and historic district commissions, as well as granges and other local organizations, are supporting agriculture and farming in many ways and can do more.

We can all work together in so many ways to help our remaining farms develop and thrive, and to connect the next generation of farmers with opportunities to farm.  We hope and expect that this year’s Seven to Save designation will help foster creative efforts to support farms, farmers, and farm buildings in a powerful coalition.


You can help family farms and the farm landscape of New Hampshire:

  • Support local farms
  • Ask legislators about their ideas to enhance agriculture in New Hampshire
  • Help promote farm-friendly practices as a member of a planning board, agricultural commission or heritage group
  • Have a farm? Consider preservation/conservation strategies and promote to neighborsSupport agriculture, conservation and preservation organizations that are helping save historic farms and promote farming
  • Share your ideas. Contact Beverly Thomas at the Preservation Alliance, 224-2281 or bt@nhpreservation.org.

 

Young Preservationists on the Move

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This Thanksgiving season we are thankful for the many young people who are researching and documentating local history, taking on complex improvement projects, and investing in public education and celebration of history through film, painting and other arts.“Historic preservation activity is often seen as the purview of established practioners or older volunteers,” said Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the Preservation Alliance. “But in fact, many young people in New Hampshire are committed to history and celebrating and protecting special places.”

For the Alliance's 25th anniversary we profiled folks 25 and under who were making a difference in their communities.

Check out a recent profile of 21st Century Preservationist Mae Williams which profiles her interest in sustainability and 2013 project exploring the future of the fofmer Laconia State School in the Plymouth State University magazine.

Check out Josh Arnold's Habitat for Humanity-like venture to build commuity and sustainable practice at G.A.L.A. 

The Alliance has noticed many Eagle Scout projects that have promoted preservation goals, and, in national news, the Girl Scouts organization of Georgia unveiled a first-ever Historic Preservation patch at the National Trust conference in Savannah in November 2014.

Please send us your favorite stories of Young Preservationists!  Forward to Virginia Davidson at vd@nhpreservation.org and we'll look for ways to share the good news.

 

 

 

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