Work Underway to Place Essex Village on National Register
The Essex Planning Commission is discussing a preliminary proposal for grant funding to help prepare a nomination for Essex Village to be recognized on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
The town has experience in preparing a nomination for the national registry. The designation of the Village of Ivoryton by the NRHP was successfully sought in 2014.
Consulting planner for Essex John Guszkowski says the nomination of Essex Village “is sort of an older idea,” with it being mentioned in the town’s 2015-2025 Plan of Conservation and Development.
“Basically, we decided it was time to do it for Essex Village also,” said Guszkowski.
The process to achieve a listing is a lengthy one. It includes archival research, documentation and the completion of a National Register nomination form.
The focus of the proposal in Essex would be on the architectural heritage and history of the distinct buildings in Essex Village. The town is already recognized by the State Register of Historic Places as a War of 1812 Battle Site District.
“In the case of Essex Village…the leg work in the gathering of history on each property has been done,” said Guszkowski. The work now is “compiling it and putting it in the right format for the nomination.”
Due to the complexity of the nomination form, which requires a thorough understanding of the criteria required by the National Register, most towns hire an experienced consultant to complete it, which was done in 2014 with Ivoryton’s nomination.
To help cover the cost of the consultant’s work for the nomination, the Planning Commission is anticipating applying for a grant from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The one-to-one matching requirement of the grant would necessitate approval of an allocation of funds from the Board of Selectmen.
Guszkowski says that if the Commission is successful in moving forward with the grant application and the nomination, the town would hold information sessions for the general public on what it means for property owners in Essex Village.
“It’s basically an honorary designation,” says Guszkowski. “There’s very little sort of regulation or requirement that goes along with it [for property owners]. It’s an honor and recognition of the well persevered historical nature of the village, national recognition.”
The designation would not stop the alteration or renovation of the buildings in Essex Village, but it does help with preservation efforts.
One of the ways this is accomplished is by financially incentivizing owners of historic properties to preserve the property. This is either through state and federal historical preservation tax credits or federal and state grants for preservation and restoration activities.
Guszkowski says that the tax credits “are literally cash to help with historical renovation or historic preservation and that option would not be available if they were not a part of a historic district or individually listed.”
Other benefits include legal protection from unreasonable destruction, tax incentives for the rehabilitation of income-producing historic properties, and consideration of alternatives to fire and life safety code compliance, according to the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.
Other than providing property owners with the opportunity to participate in these various historical preservation programs, there are no additional regulations or procedures required of them except for a 90-day demolition delay, according to Guszkowski.
“If you wanted to tear it down and put up a glass box, it doesn’t prevent you,” Guszkowski said. “It does confer a demolition delay so that if you are going to tear it down…documentation can be done on its historical [properties]…photography, paperwork.
“It’s almost all carrot and no stick,” he adds.
There are more than 93,500 listings in the National Register of Historic Places. For more information, visit www.nps.gov.