Five downtown business owners in Bourbon attended the Town Council meeting on March 14 hoping to get answers stemming from letters they had received about being included in the National Historical Register for downtown.
Kurt Gardner, president of the Wythougan Valley Preservation Council, was on hand to give an update on the progress of an application to the state to have Bourbon’s downtown added to the National Historical Register. Garner had applied to the state for the distinction some two years ago and said the matter was up for review in April. He also told the town council a second application is in place for a residential area.
Gardner said every town in Marshall County was on the National Register. He went on to say that Culver, Argos, and Plymouth have been on the National Register for twenty years.
Although the members of the town council and their attorney, Mark Wagner, were not aware of the matter, Gardner indicated that the town had given a few hundred dollars towards the project at some point.
Business owners shared their concerns that inclusion in the register would mean restrictions on how they renovated their buildings. Gardner said, “There are no policies or no oversight.” He said there are tax credit grants available for rehabilitation of buildings that could mean a 20 percent credit directly off the state income tax.
Gardner explained further that a type of local historical register does have restrictions and the National Register does not have any that would keep owners from doing whatever they want, including tearing down a building.
Patron Natalie Brookings said, “I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know until I got the letter.” The letter sent from the state outlined how business owners could opt out of the proposed register. Patron Michael Koontz said he was against the application. Koontz said, “Is this a first step to a second step?” He added, “How many hoops do I have to jump through? Do we even have a choice?”
If business owners or residential home owners want to opt out, they must have a majority in opposition and state their oppositions I writing to the state.
Brookins said she didn’t care about Plymouth or other towns. She said, “What’s it going to do for the town of Bourbon?” Gardner pointed out that being on the National Register could help in marketing.
Council President, Les McFarland said , “There are a lot of empty buildings downtown.” He indicated that tax credits could entice entrepreneurs to buy property in the town and use tax credits for renovations.
Gardner agreed to stay after the meeting to answer any further questions.
Carol Anders Correspondent