Owners of historic properties may soon get tax breaks

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – News 2 continues to track the impact of growth in and around Nashville.

The fight to preserve Nashville’s historic homes and buildings may soon have a new tool.

A new bill aims to make that happen through a tax incentive for property owners.

Driving along Music Row, you’ll see ‘for sale’ signs posted on historic properties, a sight all too common for local preservation activist Robbie Jones.

“I assume I need to go take photographs of that building because it’ll be demolished soon and I hate to be a defeatist, but it’s been the case,” said Jones.

“I think one of the biggest challenges we have is that land values have gone so high that the ability for a developer to save a historic property – it is just not making sense,” said Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council Member for District 15.

But that decision may come with a clearer answer thanks to a new bill that aims to create a tax break for property owners of historic buildings throughout Davidson County.

Syracuse is the bill’s sponsor.

“We just need more tools in the toolbox in order to encourage it,” said Syracuse.

Syracuse said based on a state bill authorized in 2010, the tax break would be an abatement based on the amount of investment that owners put into fixing up the historic property.

The only other Tennessee County to implement something similar – Rutherford County.

“I really started looking at it and said this is something we need,” said Syracuse. “If we don’t encourage developers and property owners to keep their buildings, then we’re losing part of Nashville’s history.”

Jones said cities with similar programs have seen success.

He said in Portland, Oregon, property owners have saved up to $2,000 a year fixing up their historic homes.

“Instead of them saying it’s just not worth it, let’s tear it down and build something new because I can make more money — this may help to make the numbers work,” said Jones.

The bill went through a first reading.

Syracuse said the bill is still preliminary.

The next step is to come up with specific guidelines outlining what qualifies a historic property.

Syracuse said Metro Council will be working with the Property Accessor’s Office, Metro Finance, Historic and Planning Commissions to figure out the details of the program.

The bill is on Council’s agenda again in two weeks.

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