A New Direction for Preservation In Spring Lake
by Peter Saklas
Yes, the PASL has tried to preserve historic structures, and we have had some success. The Duggan Building is a prime example. Another accomplishment has been our support for homeowners who have successfully appealed to the Planning Board for variances partly based on the owner’s incorporation of historic preservation into their projects. A walk around the Borough shows there are many who have preserved historic homes. Each year we recognize a handful of property owners who took extraordinary efforts to preserve historic homes and commercial buildings. Since 1999, we have recognized over 100 properties and there are hundreds more we have left “on the table” for potential future recognition.
Modest success is not enough. Whenever a significant historic home is demolished, we are berated for not stopping the demolition of historic homes. Residents ask us to do more. Our efforts to have a stronger preservation ordinance adopted have not been successful. When we ask, “Do you want to preserve Spring Lake’s historic heritage?” most residents say yes. However, most residents also reject the concept of mandatory preservation requirements. Our efforts over the past 15 years have taught us that mandatory preservation requirements are not feasible, and we have concluded that they are off the table. We want to focus on what we can do to enhance voluntary historic preservation. With this in mind we have developed a new strategy.
RELIEF AND INCENTIVES - A NEW APPROACH
While there are several hundred historic properties where the owners have made the effort to preserve while bringing them up to date, we feel there are many more that owners may preserve with a little bit of help from the Borough. A voluntary program providing some relief from current zoning requirements and incorporating incentives will encourage more folks to preserve historic homes. We made a presentation to the Borough Council that describes this proposal early in 2017.
The “relief” and “incentives” make restoring historic structures more practical by eliminating some of the procedural headaches when adapting a historic property to current zoning and by providing flexibility to allow a property owner to bring the home up to date without destroying its historical character. The relief and incentives also give the Preservation Alliance and others in the Borough something to offer to owners of historic properties to encourage preservation. In addition to the inherent recognition that the Borough wants to preserve historic structures, the relief and incentives would be “selling points” the Preservation Alliance and others could use to persuade property owners to consider restoration in lieu of demolition.
The Preservation Alliance recognizes that the relief and incentives concept cannot be a blank check and there will have to be reasonable limits. For example, the total bulk of the historic structure and all other structures on the property as well as the total impervious coverage should not be allowed to exceed that allowed by new construction. Also, once a property owner elects to take advantage of the relief and/or the incentives, the historic exterior of the structure as viewed from the street must be maintained.
We knew that making a relief and incentives program part of the Borough’s ordinances would need a long process and a good bit of give and take. After our presentation in early 2017, Borough staff and Council members raised a number of issues resulting in no action. In December 2018 we made a follow-up presentation and responded in some detail to the issues.
The next step is to work with the Planning Board on its process to update the Borough Master Plan to insure the Preservation Element of the Master Plan justifies the need for preservation of historic structures and recommends the “Relief and Incentives” proposal.
We intend to implement a comprehensive program to encourage the preservation of historic properties. The elements of the program are listed below: Some are not dependent on a formal relief and incentives program but certainly will be far more effective if the Borough adopts a formal program.
An outreach program to potential property buyers that features the availability of historic properties. This could include, in periodicals focused on preservation, articles highlighting the availability of historic homes in Spring Lake and, of course, the many features of our town. The program might also include an effort to place informational advertisements in those periodicals as well as others that circulate to readers that may be interested in property at the Jersey Shore.
An outreach to all owners of historic properties to explain the advantages of the relief and incentives program as well as the advantages of owning and preserving a historic property.
An outreach program to all realtors to explain the advantages of the relief and incentives program, plus preparation of information packets for distribution to prospective purchasers.
A tabulation of historic homes that have been renovated, hopefully with their owners’ commitment to share their renovation experience and knowledge with those who may be interested in buying and preserving a historic home in Spring Lake.
A resource list of architects and contractors that are interested in preserving historic properties, as well as a list of vendors that can provide “hard to find” historic material.
A catalog of books, web sites, periodicals, etc., that provide information on historic structures and historic structure restoration.
A historic reference section in our website that includes much of the information listed in the above items.
An information center in the new Duggan Building focusing on historic preservation.