Overseers of Wake County’s Local Historic Landmark Program say Zebulon has plenty of buildings and sites of historic significance and worthy of special designation.
Zebulon, however, is currently the only municipality in the county which doesn’t participate in that historic landmark program, or have one of its own.
“We’ve just never came to participate in it,” said Zebulon Town Manager Rick Hardin. “I don’t know the exact history. I just know we’re not a part of it, so they’ve asked us to consider it.”
Wake County planner Bryan Coates and Gary Roth, the president of Capital Area Preservation, which oversees the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission, paid commissioners a visit last month for that very reason. It was a chance for the town board to learn more about the program and how it could be beneficial for Zebulon.
“It’s an honor to be a landmark,” Roth said. “Zebulon has some of the greatest historic buildings in Wake County and we would love for you to be a part of the program.”
Roth made it clear the county program is completely independent of the National Register of Historic Places.
“This program is a county program that works with the towns,” he said. “If you participate in the program, they don’t become Wake County landmarks, they become Zebulon landmarks.”
Naturally, one of the first questions town leaders had was what exactly constitutes historic designation.
Capital Area Preservation defined as landmarks as areas, buildings or objects that have “historical, architectural, archeological or cultural significance and have been recognized by official designation for its importance.” Roth noted that typically includes sites that are at least 50 years old, as a basis for consideration.
“Visits from historical people, and how much the home has changed would be factors,” Roth said. “It’s what makes the historic character coming through, or have things changed that make it not so?”
Beyond just being a local historic landmark, locations that qualify may also be eligible for a 50 percent property tax deferral.
The program is optional for property owners, who can submit an application to be considered for the designation. That was a selling point for six-term Commissioner Dale Beck.
“I like the fact that the people who want to participate can participate in it, and those who don’t (want to), don’t have to,” Beck said. “We have some places here that deserve historic attention that aren’t getting it right now. There’s some older houses that could (qualify).
“You’ve got a lot of buildings downtown that would definitely fit into that. There’s some unique architecture.”
Roth said very few candidates that meet the requirements on the surface get turned down.
The county preservation commission reviews proposed landmarks and makes a recommendation to the respective municipality, which has the final say-so on designating a local landmark.
The idea is just food for thought at this point. Hardin said the town board will revisit and consider the invitation to join the program in the coming months.