City tables historic places application

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 10, 2009

An initiative backed by Mayor Laurence Leyens to add an area west of Washington Street to the National Register of Historic Places was tabled Friday after South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said the public needed time to digest the proposal.

Delaying until the city board’s Jan. 20 meeting the decision on whether to officially publicize Vicksburg’s intention to apply for the National Register designation means the city will have an opportunity to receive feedback from those who own property in the area, which is bounded by Washington, Veto and Lee streets, Beauman said.

A previous attempt to expand the Vicksburg Historic District did meet opposition from some property owners in the area because that move would have added standards and preclearance provisions.

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Administered by the National Park Service, the National Register is different. It includes districts, sites and buildings that the federal government has deemed worthy of preservation. Owners of property within National Register districts can apply for federal and state tax credits to offset the costs of improvements to the property if the improvements cost more than $5,000 and comply with state guidelines. Twenty-five percent of the money spent can be written off on federal taxes so long as the property produces income. A 26 percent credit is available on state taxes for any property within the district.

Beneficiaries of the credit are required to pay back a pro-rata share of their credit if they do not stay in the home for at least five years. But whether or not to improve the property is up to its owners, according to Leyens and Victor Gray-Lewis, head of the city’s inspections department. There is no National Register requirement that improved property be kept up to standard after the improvements are made, according to Leyens and Gray-Lewis.

“The only guidelines that will be imposed will be if a property owner decides to avail himself of the tax credit,” Gray-Lewis told the city board. “Then they would have to follow Department of Archives and History guidelines.”

That makes property listed on the National Register different than property within Vicksburg’s local historical district, said Nancy Bell, executive director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation and a supporter of the National Register designation for the area west of Washington Street. Improvements to property within the local district must be approved by the city’s Board of Architectural Review. But, with National Register designations, “there is absolutely nothing that says you have to do anything,” Bell said.

The mayor also stressed the program’s voluntary character in urging the city board to support it.

“I can’t think of an argument in my head not to do this,” Leyens said. “There is no negative basis. This is not even a commitment to do anything. It’s a notice to apply.”


On the agenda

On Friday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen:

• Took under consideration a petition by Golding Development Co. LLC to close and vacate a portion of Pearl Street.

• Declared Jan. 19 Robert E. Lee/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the city.

• Approved a request by the Vicksburg Police Department to purchase 114 child safety seats from Wal-Mart under the 2009 Occupant Protection Grant Program.

• Approved a resolution for just compensation to a property owner affected by the Washington Street bridge project.

• Awarded a bid for casting, an “iron-type pipe,” to Central Pipe of Pearl. The city will be able to buy multiple casting items from Central Pipe at prices ranging from $3.67 to $1,316.75 per product.

• Awarded a bid for plastic pipe products to Central Pipe and HD Supply, both of Pearl. The city will be able to buy three different types of plastic pipe from Central at prices ranging from $2.64 per product to $6.72 per product, and from HD Supply at prices ranging from $1.98 per product to $3.59 per product.

• Authorized Victor Gray-Lewis, director of buildings and inspections, to cut, clean and/or demolish the following properties — 753 Johnson St., owned by Viking Investments LLC; 1607 Main St., owned by Eugene Houston; 190 Spouts Spring Road, owned by James Ragsdale; 119 Fleetwood Drive, owned by Woodbridge Inc.; 1601 Martin Luther King Drive, owned by Mary Ann Wells; 114 Williams St., owned by Rosie and Louis Craft; 1404 South St., owned by Martha Carter and Marvin Rankins; 726 Morgan Lane, owned by Nancy Calibro; 500 Dallas St., owned by Countrywide Home Loans; 747 Johnson St., owned by Carl Bennett; 808 Bowman St., owned by INA Group LLC; 507 Farmer St., owned by Home Resolutions LLC; and 811 Bowman St., owned by Cherokee Rose Properties.

• Allocated $25,000 for Four Seasons of the Arts.

• Approved requests for advertising from the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Warren County and from Omicron Rho Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc  for the 20th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast.

• Approved the claims docket.


Contact Ben Bryant at