Belhaven community leaders are asking the city of Jackson to apply for grant money to help the neighborhood earn a designation on the National Register of Historic Places.
"Belhaven is eligible for the National Register, but this is an expensive and lengthy process that could take years. This is only the first part of a bigger effort," Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation Executive Director Virgi Lindsay said today. "It is a very intense process."
Lindsay says the city and Mississippi Department of Archives and History would have to hire a qualified independent contractor to inventory every single piece of property and look at each house. It requires a lot of time, she said, because Belhaven is one of the largest historic districts in the state.
"There could be 1,000 historic structures in this area," Lindsay said.
The City of Jackson currently resisters Belhaven as a historical district, but it is not nationally registered with the National Register of Historic Places. Belhaven Heights, an area just south of Belhaven, which lies roughly between Interstate 55 and State Street, is already registered with the National Register of Historic Places.
Bill Gatlin, national register coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History who is working with the city, said the new designation could give area residents access to tax credits for construction, repairs or rehabilitation of their property.
"You can get credit for 20 percent of your qualified rehabilitation expenses," Gatlin said. "Put a new roof on, or paint the house--all of that is eligible. But there's also a state credit for income-producing properties and owner-occupied homes, of up to 25 percent of their qualified rehabilitation expenses."
Owners apply for the credit through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
The U.S. National Park Service establishes the historic designation, but Gatlin said it only allots tax credits for specific work. He said homeowners would not have access to tax credits for construction that drastically alters the appearance of the home, such as the addition of vinyl siding, or the replacement of windows that do not match the original style of the house.
Gatlin said the national designation will not prevent a homeowner from significantly altering the appearance of their historically designated home, but owners would lose both their designation and eligibility for future tax credits if they build outside conformity standards designated for their home.
"This is not another level of regulation," Gatlin said. "The National Register doesn't put any limitation on the owners or make necessary any new prior approval for alterations, but what it does do is make the properties in Belhaven eligible for federal and state rehabilitation tax credits. There is a financial gain to the property owners."
The proposed boundaries for the historic designation lie west of Interstate 55, east of State Street, north of Fortification Street and south of Riverside Drive. If a homeowner wants his or her property to be excluded from the designation they should send a notarized letter to the Mississippi Department of Archives stating so.