There are at least 2,300 historic districts in the U.S., many of them centered on authenticating the assets of single-family homeowners.
It should be noted that the preservation movement is struggling to tell the full American story. Only 8% of National Register sites and 3% of our National Historic Landmarks represent people of color, women, or members of the LGBTQ community. Nationwide many designated historic districts have resulted in lack of diversity and contribute to lack of affordable housing. The resulting rich and primarily white neighborhoods is hardly something to be proud of in 2019.
The primary goal of preservationists should be to support people and communities in retaining the places they feel passionately about and doing so in a way that supports their evolving needs – (and financial realities).
I have argued time and again that preservation is best left to private investors and foundations. Why? Because special financing and significant tax credits are available to these two groups making it more financially feasible for those up to the task. Municipalities enjoy neither of those incentives.
The proposal for a full buildout for Question 1 is $12,500,000. The building is in a flood zone. The proposal requires moving a war memorial in exchange for a parking lot – so that residents and visitors can compromise their personal safety by crossing a state road to access the building. I have to believe that if our founders knew then what we know now, they would never have built the Town Hall in that location – burdening us with these choices today.
Wickford promotes itself as a Historic District – meaning the primary benefactors of this particular project are financial stakeholders in such designated historic buildings.
Question 1 is an outrageous financial imposition on the entire town to further support the property values and rents of those who reside in the historic district. That hardly seems equitable to me. I challenge the supporters of Question 1 to form an endowment or join a foundation and raise money for the cause that is certainly promoting their own pleasures and self-interests. Give the rest of us taxpayers a break. We have upcoming intermediate term expenses related to our schools and emergency services that the entire community shares a greater common interest in.
The old Town Hall can be made ADA compliant and re-purposed for much needed community meeting space for far less than the $5M that was already approved by voters in 2018. I ran for Town Council on a platform that promised better Asset Management. On Nov. 5 please join me at the polls and vote No on Question 1.
Mary K. Brimer
Town Councilor, North Kingstown