Council Report: Changes to historic parking ordinance, tax exempt status

December 4,2019


See full Fort Worth Business Press article by Rick Mauch here.

HISTORIC PARKING ORDINANCE

After city staff brought it to their attention, the Fort Worth City Council approved a minor amendment to a recent zoning ordinance. The change eliminates parking requirements for properties designated as historic and cultural landmarks.

City staff identified a conflict between the city’s historic preservation requirements and minimum parking requirements in the ordinance.

Because parking requirements have a potential adverse effect on the character of a historic district or property, city staff proposed the amendment to eliminate parking requirements for properties designated historic and cultural landmarks and highly significant/endangered, or listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Parking requirements often run counter to the purpose of historic preservation. In many cases, meeting parking requirements cannot be achieved without making significant changes to structures and sites.

For example, in the case of a block of commercial buildings, meeting minimum parking requirements could only be achieved through extensive alteration or demolition of historic properties.

“Removing parking requirements is a significant step forward for Fort Worth in its goal of conserving its cultural resources," said Justin Newhart, Acting Manager of Preservation and Design for Planning and Development.

Newhart said although minor in scope, the amendment provides a large incentive to apply for historic designation for a property. He added it also removes a development barrier that has often hampered the rehabilitation of significant historic and cultural resources through the city.

HISTORIC TAX EXEMPT STATUS REMOVED

At Tuesday's meeting, the Fort Worth City Council approved by a 9-0 vote an ordinance canceling the Historic Site Tax Exemption for several properties.

The status was removed from:

*401 W. Lancaster Ave.

*608-610 Main St.

*9121 Heron Ave.

*131 E. Exchange Ave.

*1200 E. Lancaster Ave.

*1212 E. Lancaster Ave.

*201 W. Vickery Blvd.

*306 W. Cannon St.

*308 W. Cannon St.

*908 E. 3rd St.

*655 May St.

*303 Crump St.

"It used to be an automatic rollover (if the exemption was applied), but now you have to apply every year," District 7 Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Shingleton said.

To receive the tax exemption on a yearly basis, the property owner is obligated to apply each year to the appraisal district. The exemption is intended to act as a stop-gap measure to provide interim relief until the property owner can rehabilitate the historic structure and take advantage of the enhanced rehabilitation incentive in lieu of the exemption.

"Someone claims a site to be historic, saying something like, 'Amon Carter's great aunt once settled there.' We say, well, do something to make sure it's kept up," Shingleton said.

Recognizing that an automatic tax exemption approved in 1995 was no longer serving its intended purpose of encouraging historic preservation, the city council adopted an ordinance in 2007 in its place that favored project-based incentives, including those for stabilization and rehabilitation.

The property at 401 W. Lancaster became eligible to receive the tax exemption on Jan. 1, 1996, but has yet to be rehabilitated or renovated in any material fashion, city officials note. The remaining properties on the list have not made the annual application to the appraisal district.

The cancellation will be effective on Dec. 31.

District 9 Councilwoman Ann Zadeh noted that the action does not remove the historic destinations of properties and therefore the protections from demolition.

"In addition, these properties will all still have the ability to apply for historic tax exemption if they actually restore or rehabilitate them and meet the criteria for those programs," Zadeh said. "This exemption allowed properties who had not done any restoration or rehabilitation work to receive tax exemptions with the hope that this program would encourage restoration. It has not, so we are discontinuing it."