There’s something almost poetic about waiting 25 years to join a historic preservation movement.
As most cities and towns signed on to a joint agreement to establish a historic preservation commission in 1992, Zebulon held off.
But last week, commissioners agreed to begin the process of joining other Wake County municipalities in the agreement.
Joining the group gives Zebulon property owners the opportunity to apply for historic designations. Historic districts could be created or single homes could apply for the designation.
At their Jan. 18 meeting, commissioners peppered Planning Director Mark Hetrick with questions about whether the historic designations could be forced upon homeowners. Hetrick said individual property owners would have the ability to opt out of the program if they did not want to participate.
Joining the pact, gives the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission the power to exercise its authority within participating towns.
The agency can help towns or property owners with research to determine if a property is eligible to be deemed historic. While age is a factor, Hetrick said not just any old building would be eligible for inclusion.
Gaining the historic designation offers property owners a chance at some tax credits, but it also can restrict their ability to make changes and updates to their homes.
“I think everybody’s scared hat we are going to put it on them, but we aren’t. They have to agree,” Commissioner Beverly Wall-Clark said.
Commissioner Dale Beck agreed. “If I don’t want my house to be a historic house, then I don’t have to do it,” he said.
Town manager Joe Moore told commissioners they had four choices in the matter. They could choose to do nothing, they could create a Zebulon Historic Preservation Commission separate from Wake County’s, they could join the interlocal agreement with Wake County to allow for the creation of historic landmark designations and historic districts, or they could join the county and allow them to help create the landmark designations or the historic districts only.
“We’re looking for direction from you about what the next steps should be,” Moore said. He said he did not recommend the option of creating a separate historic preservation commission for Zebulon, noting that would require additional staffing.
Commissioners agreed to have the issue included on the agenda for their next meeting for a final decision.
The issue has arisen in Zebulon because some residents have asked the town to consider ways to provide protections for historic properties in the town.
The Wake County Historic Preservation Commission last did an inventory of potential historic sites in Zebulon in the mid-’90s. Recreating that list would be the first step the commission would take if Zebulon joins the group. The commission has already applied for grant funding to pay for an inventory study in Zebulon in the event that commissioners agree to join.
“Why would we not be interested in that? If a property wanted to have that designation, all they’d have to do is apply,” Beck said.