By Jessica Feldt
Handsell Historic Site, managed by the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance, now has a replica of the broken front door that once stood in the entryway of the home.
The revitalization of Maryland communities is fueled by the Historic Revitalization Tax Credit program. Maryland’s historic tax credit is a ready-made tool for economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In light of the immense challenges facing Maryland’s economy in the coming months and years, the importance of Maryland’s Historic Revitalization Tax Credit to the financial recovery of the state cannot be overstated. Senator Guy Guzzone and Delegate Stephanie Smith have introduced legislation (SB659/HB865) that will help fund the Small Commercial program of this effective community redevelopment tool.
We recognize the positive impact that historic preservation projects can have for the surrounding community. Unfortunately, one of the key programs that encourages such projects has been depleted of funding. The Small Commercial Historic Tax Credit program provides essential assistance to small business and developers who are looking to rehabilitate small, Main-Street type historic structures. During the 2019 legislation session, Preservation Maryland, along with our supporters, successfully advocated to eliminate a provision in the program that required a percentage of the rehabilitated structure be dedicated to a commercial use. The program could now be used for the rehabilitation and creation on of residential units to sell to homeowners, including rowhouses.
Unfortunately, because the program has been so successful, it has completely run out of funding, having exhausted the initial $4M authorized amount. It has been the backbone for many Main Street projects across the state and now has the potential to be used to transform vacant houses into vibrant historic homes for many for whom home ownership had long been out of reach. But, without more funding to the program, these shovel-ready projects will not be able to move forward.
The forthcoming legislation will extend the life of the program that encourages private investment in historic revitalization project by increasing the authorization for the Small Commercial Historic Tax Credit Program by an additional $1M. While this amount does not come close to addressing the present need of shovel-ready projects across the state, it will help keep the program active.
Unlike the Small Commercial program, the Competitive Commercial Historic Revitalization Tax Credit program must receive funding in the state budget every year. As of FY21, Maryland has invested only $9M for the year for the entire state. By comparison, Virginia invests nearly $100M annually, and West Virginia invests $30M. Maryland is falling behind.
Since its creation in 1996, this 20% tax credit program for the rehabilitation of historic structures has invested over $400 million in brick-and-mortar commercial redevelopment projects across nearly every jurisdiction in the state, created nearly 30,000 jobs, and yielded nearly $3.5 billion in economic activity.
As the state is faced with a staggering decrease in tax revenues, it’s worth noting that, according to a recent report from the Abell Foundation, the state Historic Revitalization Tax Credit generates positive revenue for the state and increases local property tax revenues. When buildings are rehabilitated, they pay more in local taxes which support better schools, roads, and healthcare without the need for more state dollars.
Preservation Maryland and our supporters have worked diligently to make policy changes to strengthen this essential revitalization tool. Unfortunately, without more funding for the program, those positive changes have little opportunity to make the intended impact for communities across Maryland. We will not know what Governor Hogan’s FY22 Budget will include for this key preservation program until it is released on January 20, but we stand ready to defend any included funding and to fight for an increase.
Maryland’s preservation grant programs had gone completely unfunded since FY10. Because of our advocacy, in FY18, funding was restored to the Capital and Non-Capital grant programs. Current funding continues at starvation level, with the need far outstripping available funds. We must and will do more to support those safe-guarding our state’s rich and unique history. Unfortunately, in past tight economic years, preservation programs have often become the victims of budget cuts, so protecting essential funding for preservation grant programs is a priority for Preservation Maryland over the coming session.
The African American Heritage Grant Program provides direct grant support for capital (bricks-and-mortar) upgrades and repairs to sites representing Maryland’s African-American historical experience. As with the Capital and Non-Capital Grant programs, the funding requests for this program are consistently greater than the available funding.
(SB81/HB414) Over the last 25 years, the state has completed five major studies on the feasibility, need, and economic impact of high-capacity, fixed route transit service to Southern Maryland, and despite the conclusion of every study repeatedly confirming that the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit project would vastly improve the quality of life for Southern Maryland residents, promote economic development consistent with smart growth, and advance the State’s emissions reduction goal, the Maryland Department of Transportation has not moved forward with the project. SB81/HB414 would require the State to complete the necessary steps to complete the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit project and commit the necessary funding.
(HB236) The increase of glass in new building construction in Maryland, and worldwide, threatens to undo energy conservation efforts, costs the state money, and contributes to climate change, while also causing the deaths of an estimated 1 billion birds annually in the United States, who fly into buildings, bridges, and other manmade structures.
This bill would require the Maryland Department of General Services to establish standards for state buildings and those buildings with 51% or more state funding to reduce the amount of energy-inefficient and bird-dangerous glass. Glass greater than 10% of the first 40 feet of building facades and 40% above 40 feet would need to be shaded, screened, or patterned with visible or UV films, frits, or etching. Such standards would reduce energy costs and reduce bird fatalities by more than 90%. Lighting during non-operational night times would also be limited to save energy and reduce bird attraction.
(HB583/SB414) This omnibus bill will increase Maryland’s greenhouse gas reduction requirements to 60% below 2006 levels by 2030 and net neutral by 2045. The bill would also task the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities to determine what percentage of all state funds invested in climate change must go to overburdened communities. The bill will also create a work group comprised of IBEW, AFL-CIO, registered apprenticeships, construction laborers, and building tradespeople to make recommendations for workforce development and training for displaced fossil fuel workers. Finally, the bill will enact simple, effective policies to reduce and mitigate emissions including planting 5 million trees by 2030, with 10% to be planted in underserved urban areas of the state.
In 1969, the Maryland General Assembly created Program Open Space through the institution of a transfer tax of .5% on every real estate transaction in the state. Since then the program has been responsible for:
The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority is funded by Program Open Space. Preservation Maryland supports full funding of Program Open Space and the Heritage Area Authority, opposes any attempts to shortcut, reduce, or cap the program in any way, and we support the repayment of previous diversions from the fund.
The 2021 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly came to a close on Monday, April 12, 2021. After 90 days of championing key bills and testifying on many other pieces of important legislation, it is safe to say that Preservation Maryland had one of its busiest legislative sessions in recent history, and everything was accomplished remotely. With Session adjourned until January 2022, we are happy to report that we were able to make significant advances for preservation and smart growth in Maryland.
The National Park Service recently released their Federal Tax Incentives for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings Annual Report for FY 2020, and it shows that despite the unprecedented year, the federal historic tax credit was able to have a positive impact for historic communities across Maryland and around the country.
Preservation Maryland is proud to have signed on in support of federal legislation that will create a funded study program to preserve African American cemeteries across the country – sacred places that deserve reverence and protection.
We are halfway through an extremely busy – and all virtual – 90 day legislative session, and Preservation Maryland is staying engaged in Annapolis, with the organization championing several key bills and testifying on many other important pieces of legislation.
In a recent statewide poll conducted of likely voters, 90% of Marylanders expressed support for Program Open Space, a state program that supports the acquisition, conservation, and improvements at Maryland’s natural resources Additionally, 64% of Marylanders were opposed to diverting funds from Program Open Space for other budget uses.
Maryland’s Small Commercial Historic Tax Credit program has run out of money and requires immediate funding. This week, Senate and House committees will hold hearings for HB865/SB659 that would extend the life of this vital program by increasing the authorized funding amount by $1 million.
Governor Hogan’s newly released FY22 budget includes full funding for Program Open Space, a program that actively underwrites open space conservation and community park amenities.
On January 20, 2021, Governor Hogan released his FY22 budget, which retains funding for several key preservation programs.
Today marks the start of the 442nd Session of the Maryland General Assembly. While this session may not look like those of years past due to Covid-19 precautions, Preservation Maryland stands ready to be the voice of historic preservation in Annapolis. We have a full slate of priorities in support of historic tax credits, economic recovery, community revitalization, preservation funding, and smart growth.
In Maryland, tax credits for rehab projects have revitalized communities statewide, saved thousands of historic buildings, and created billions in state revenue.
Smart Growth Maryland is a campaign of Preservation Maryland which advocates for a more environmentally and economically sustainable future that creates opportunities for all Marylanders through better development patterns.
Thanks to this program, nearly all Marylanders are just 15 minutes away from a state, local park or public open space.
Promoting and enhancing the history of Maryland is a big job – and one that fuels one of the state’s most important industries: Heritage Tourism.
Federal agencies oversee key funding programs and policies that protect America’s historic resources from needless destruction.
State funding for preservation benefits all Marylanders – and has saved historic resources from Oakland to Ocean City.
Several key state agencies are charged with protecting Maryland’s history – a job that requires adequate resources.
All across the state, local governments have realized the value of a well-preserved community and many offer lucrative programs to assist with rehab efforts.
Main Street Maryland’s traditional downtown economic and cultural districts are the cornerstones of local communities throughout the State of Maryland.