Historic preservation is not all that it is cracked up to be.
I hope someone can provide some more insight into this topic for me then if I have become jaded because I have found mostly negatives in terms of historical designation. I own two homes in the Coronado District and am involved in the Coronado Neighborhood Association. Historical designation has been a hassle. All of the listed problems and concerns I read regarding alleys or garbage or sewers have resources available through neighborhood services, not historical preservation.
Whether or not your home is historic does not give you more pull in terms of making your neighborhood cleaner or more safe. And no one really wants to help you fix up your house- that is such a fallacy.
This designation simply makes it harder to change home styles and provides small grants when neighborhoods are pushy enough and have enough political punch or historic relevence regarding poverty or some other social issue to warrant monies. And these monies are available for such things as local community centers or parks.- not your house. You also have the neighborhood association to "police" new businesses or changes in zoning rights such as stores obtaining liquor licenses that want to locate in the neighborhood. If someone has busted out windows or garbage in the street, neighborhood services is available for all of those issues in any neighborhood in the city (of Phoenix- I don't know Scotssdale, Mesa, etc.) Historic designation is meaningless.
If you are one to want to preserve lets say the architectural style of your Haver home, then historic preservation would be the way to go. When a neighborhood is historic, you cannot change the window styles, the materials, NO STUCCO (which may be worth the hassle so no one can stucco their home ever again), no additions that do not compliment the original style, something a nighbor might think is NOT historical...etc (among a long list of things and some things the historic office deems would not be appropriate for the neighborhood)...without going through a huge hearing and getting a certificate of appropriateness or no effect to build or alter your home in any way. This is a lengthy process before you can even apply for a permit from the city- I have waited about 6 weeks average before obtaining a certificate to even be able to apply for a permit. That then takes another 3-5 months right now. And these are hearings so the public can protest your changes- which happens often when you have neighbors who are controlling or are nuts or are just weird. Renovations include such minor things as moving your gas water heater for example- if it is more than two feet and your home is designated historic, you need to obtain the infamous certificate of appropriateness before going to the city. Probably about 6 months.
And just imagine- A woman who calls herself Nighthawk and has a suit of armor standing on her front porch (this is an actual neighbor of mine) can come down and protest your desire to move your water heater to the other side of your house because she believes that you have a camera pointed at her 24 hours a day to prove that she abducts small children because she is really the witch from Hansel and Gretel- (in which case you simply send her an anonymous picture from google of the ariel photo of her home and some gingerbread cookies...which of course I would NEVER do
). These things happen constantly- SO much more often then one would think.
As for financial benefits- these are just simply unavailable and I don't care how much people rant and rave and swear they are obtainable- I have yet to see one person receive any money for their home. The exterior preservation assistance program is available if the city needs some of your property for a new street or access to a water line or some other desired access or property issue (easements). These are rare. They are also very small grants and do not cover work that would be over (I think) 90 days to complete so basically it would not cover anything major. Additions are not covered as the city usually needs access - it is called facade easement and is a limited fund.
Tax incentives are small and can be minutely beneficial- you might save a couple of hundred dollars if you are listed on the national historic register. Federal tax incentives are for buildings or places that produce income though. The heritage grant program is for buildings such as educational institutions- not for private residences. Then there is the low income housing incentive- you have to be below the poverty line- WELL below the poverty line to be eligible and they might build you a fence and paint the outside of your house. Other grants are available for community improvement, but are national and are competitve. If you have a lot of time on your hands or are a very involved soccer mom type with not much to do while the kids are at school, then applying for these community grants may be an option to fill your time. My taxes for my homes in Coronado were not much less then the home I have in Marlen Grove......Marlen Grove has nicer streets, better schools, and less rentals and I will pay a little more.
If one is concerned about their neighborhood, a neighborhood association, such as those in historic districts, can provide representation in front of the city- but anyone can go in front of the city. Any MoPho can get up there and give their spiel. Neighborhood associations just have a regularly scheduled time. Instead of historic preservation, I believe community involvement is just as effective, unless preserving the integrity of the architectural style of the 'hood is what is important to that particular community. Historic preservation can be a hassle and provides the city (and control freak neighbors) more avenues with which to control the property owner's ability to change or alter their property the way they see fit. It is like those associations they have in condos or newer gated communities- it is basically the neighbor police being able to say you didn't bring your recycling bin in 5 minutes after the truck was here!
There are really not many financial benefits and it ends up costing one more in historic hearings and fees, obtaining permits, etc. than any direct contribution to one's pocketbook or community improvement.
Historic preservation is just that- preserving the outside of homes so they look as they did when they were built. There is no neighborhood benefit in terms of more police involvement for crime, more trash pick up or slum lord penalty, city built parks or funding. Basically you can't paint your house without asking everyone in your neighborhood and the city if they like the color or not. Seriously. And you get to say you live in a historic district. Marlen Grove historic district doesn't sound all that great to me as a home owner in the neighborhood- I like just telling people about why I enjoy the particular type of architecture that I do and preserving my own home the way I like. I don't believe I should be able to tell someone else how to redo the environment they live in- but that is just my opinion.
The one good thing is that you do get to actively fight stucco in your neighborhood. That may be incentive enough.