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Proposed tax break may help preserve Yorktown landmarks
by Brad King

Yorktown's Landmark Preservation Committee brought an issue of amending the existing Landmarks Preservation Law before the Yorktown Town Board last week.

This ordinance is intended to create a real property tax exemption that preserves or increases the historic character of real property located within the Town of Yorktown.

Qualified owners would receive exemption over a 10-year period.

Under the proposal, which is still being formulated, historic property will be exempt from taxation to the extent of any increase in value attributed to such alteration or rehabilitation pursuant to the following schedule:

The first five years owners would receive 100 percent tax exemption. Each year following they would receive 20 percent less.

The last declared landmark in Yorktown was in 1976. Currently there are only 12, explained Robert Giordano, chairman of the Landmark Preservation Committee.

"We are trying to encourage people to come forward and volunteer," Giordano said. "We want people to come to us because we have been unsuccessful in chasing people. It has to be voluntary."

Giordano explained owners of such properties have been apprehensive about declaring their properties as landmarks or historic sites in past years.

"The owners we've been in contact with always mention the financial hindrance. This proposal would help," Giordano said.

Attorney and trustee for the Landmarks Preservation Committee, Gary Corwin, offered his services to draft the new legislation.

He will use the following draft as a guideline, as well as incorporate ideas that will come from further discussion with town officials.

  1. Such property must be "historic," which shall mean that the property has been designated as a landmark or is a property that is located in and contributes to the character of a designated historic district.
  2. Alterations or rehabilitation of exteriors and public interiors (to the extent that public interiors are regulated by the local preservation law) of historic property must meet guidelines and review standards established in the local preservation law.
  3. Alterations and rehabilitation of exteriors and public interiors (to the extent that public interiors are regulated by the local preservation law) of historic property are approved by the Landmark Preservation Commission prior to commencement of work.
  4. Alterations or rehabilitation must be for the purpose of historic preservation. For purposes of qualifying for a real property tax exemption pursuant to this law, alterations and rehabilitation shall be deemed to be for the historic preservation.

"Landmark preservation has been forgotten. Nothing has been done and our point of view is to reemphasize becoming leaders again, like Yorktown was in the 1970's," Corwin said.

Yorktown Supervisor, Linda Cooper seemed to support the committee's proposal, although she wanted to clarify certain concerns.

"I would like to understand what the state is doing with this issue," Cooper said. "I don't want it to be a contradiction with what they are doing."

Yorktown Councilman, Nicholas Bianco echoed Cooper's thoughts.

"We need to understand this process better. Is it better to do this in the future so we're not butting heads?" Bianco said.

The issue will have to be researched further by the Landmarks Preservation Committee, Town Board, Zoning Board and Planning Board.

Giordano said he expects to meet with the Town board within the next two months for further discussion.

"Once we get everyone involved we can then proceed towards a public hearing on this issue," Cooper said.

Source: North County News, January 17 - 23, 2001

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