letter to the editor

Keep Historic Preservation Commission

Posted:  Monday, October 16, 2017 - 3:45pm

Dear Editor:

The repeal of Wiscasset’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is on the November warrant. Since most Wiscasset residents don’t live in the historic district they probably think they don’t have a dog in this fight. They should think again. There are plenty of reasons to preserve the historic character of Wiscasset, but I’ll give you just one – keeping the HPC will help keep taxes lower.

A review of the 2017 tax database shows properties in the historic district make up only 11.3 percent of all properties in Wiscasset and yet they pay 30.8 percent of the taxes. You heard right, 11 percent of the properties pay over 30 percent of the taxes! Still don’t care? Well, maybe you’ve noticed that properties in the historic district have been selling for a lot less than their assessed values. When properties are reassessed (and we’re overdue for that) new property values will reflect these lower sale prices. Lower values will mean a shortfall in tax revenue for the town. If that happens, the board of selectmen will need to raise the tax rate to make up for the shortfall. But here’s the catch, property values outside the historic district have been fairly stable so, while historic district properties will pay that higher tax rate based on their newly lowered property values those living outside the district will pay the higher tax rate on properties valued close to their current assessed values. If you think you don’t have a dog in this fight, think again.

Studies across the country have shown that communities with a strong historic preservation ordinance maintain higher property values. An active HPC is important to all Wiscasset taxpayers because it will help to buoy property values in the historic district which contribute more than their fair share of the town’s tax burden.  The Planning Board and the Ordinance Review Committee have both made compelling arguments to keep the HPC in place and improve the ordinance where necessary. Please vote to keep the Historic Preservation Commission in November.

Kim Dolce