NORTH SMITHFIELD – Owners of historically significant properties in town will now qualify for a tax break for maintenance and restoration efforts, thanks to an initiative by the North Smithfield Historic District Commission.

The plan, which received support from members of the Town Council this week, will see those who spend a minimal a $7,500 on approved work receive guaranteed 20 percent tax credit for up to five years following the project.

Commissioners are now looking to have members of the General Assembly pass legislation enabling the local board to have jurisdiction over such projects.

“This ordinance would help to mitigate the cost for people who own historic properties in the historic district when they restore the exterior of their building,” explained Richard Keene, president of the North Smithfield Heritage Association. “I think this would be a significant step forward toward ensuring that our beautiful historic buildings in town are maintained adequately and that the property owners get some relief.”

The ordinance applies to both properties listed individually in the state register of historic places and those covered within a historic district.

“The North Smithfield Town Council finds and declares that preservation of Rhode Island’s historic residences enhances an understanding of the state and town’s heritage, improves property values, fosters civic beauty, and promotes public education, pleasure, and welfare,” notes a proposed amendment to the state ordinance to be forwarded to the legislature.  “The purpose of this ordinance is to allow the town to provide property tax relief to mitigate against the increased assessment of historic houses when they undergo substantial maintenance or rehabilitation.”

“It’s a way to encourage investment,” noted Town Council President Paul Vadenais.

While the ordinance creating tax relief was passed this week, Town Solicitor David Igliozzi explained that in order for the town commission to have jurisdiction over approval, a change in state law is required. That authority current falls with the state historic preservation commission.

“It’s not something that we can do,” Igliozzi said regarding the change in authority. “It’s something the legislature does.”

According to the North Smithfield commission’s proposal, owners of historic properties would apply to the town’s tax assessor for relief upon completion of the work. The assessor would notify the NSHC, which would have the authority to inspect the project and make a recommendation.

 Councilors votes unanimously to approve the ordinance. If the change of jurisdiction receives approval by the General Assembly, the board will take up a second resolution regarding that change.

Keene noted that several of the current board members will no longer be serving next month following voters’ Nov. 3 election of new councilors, who will soon take their seats. Councilors Paul Zwolenski and Douglas Osier opted to instead run for town administrator, with Zwolenski ultimately winning the race, and Councilor Terri Bartimioli was unsuccessful in her bid for a second term.

“I just want to thank the council for their support,” Keene said. “It’s truly been tremendous. We can’t do what we do without your support.”

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