Historic Myth-Busters

Historic Preservation = Enhanced Property Values

Historic Myth-Busters

geri-2Dispelling one myth after the next, a panel of experts exposed the truth about historic preservation to a crowded room at the Winter Park Community Center.

The three panelists, who spoke October 29 at an event co-hosted by the Winter Park Voice and Friends of Casa Feliz, were Kathleen Kauffman, Historic Preservation Chief of Miami-Dade County, Christine Dalton, Historic Preservation Officer of the city of Sanford, and Richard Gonzalez, AIA, immediate past president of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. The panel was moderated by Senior Orlando Sentinel Columnist, Beth Kassab.

First came the news that Winter Park isn’t special in the struggle to save its heritage. Throughout Florida, rising land values are luring investors who gobble up older, smaller homes and replace them with massive, profit-making structures.

McMansions Thrive in Expensive Dirt

“It’s not just here,” said Kauffman. “It’s everywhere in the state.”

That news may have been small comfort to the more than 80 people attending the informational event. Most seemed concerned about protecting buildings that reflect the city’s heritage. The panel was held eleven days before the City Commission’s vote Nov. 9 to revise its historic preservation ordinance. Missing from the audience were the city staffers and most of the appointed board members, invited because they are involved in preservation decisions.

Property Value Fears Debunked

For those who did attend – interested residents, one member of the city’s Historic Preservation Board, Rebecca Talbert, and one City Commissioner, Carolyn Cooper – the panel had encouraging news, too. Fears about diminished property values and unhappy homeowners turn out to be myths. Cities with strong historic districts have healthy property values, satisfied residents and even happier real-estate agents, the panelists agreed.

Dalton, who described herself as “one of the most pro-development people you’re ever going to meet,” said she has heard claims that historic districts hurt property values, but she said, “That is not at all what we’re seeing” in Sanford.

“I get Realtors’ calls all the time asking, ‘When are you going to expand the size of the districts?'” she said, noting the strong demand for homes in Sanford’s historic districts.

No Documented Cases of Lowered Values

Kauffman said her research found no documented case anywhere that [a historic district] lowers property values. Instead, she found the opposite. People are motivated to buy when they know their investment in a historic home will be protected from the whims of indifferent neighbors, she said. Historic districts also tend to get more attention from City Hall when it comes to services and amenities, like street lights and utilities.

Still Plenty of Room for McMansions

Those who want to build homes not in keeping with historic guidelines still have plenty of choices, said Gonzalez. Most cities in Florida are like Winter Park, with only about five percent of its land considered historic, he pointed out. “So if you want to build a McMansion, go pick on that other 95 percent.”

When Kassab asked if people worry about having less control over their homes, panelists observed that preservation staff typically work closely to help homeowners. Ninety percent of requested changes in Sanford are minor ones dealt with easily by staff, Dalton said.

Preservation Staff Can Help Homeowners Save $$

“Most of the time we work with homeowners, we save them money,” said Kauffman, who regards historic preservation as “one added layer of value protection” for a property owner, rather than additional control. She noted that Miami-Dade doesn’t regulate a home’s interior or changes or additions to the back of a house.

Panelists identified several additional strategies for successful districts — creative incentives for property owners, an independent Historic Preservation Board with qualified members, and commitment to the importance of preservation.

“Getting the right people in positions of leadership is so important,” Dalton said.

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    By: Geri Throne – Guest Columnist

    Author / Journalist
    Geri Throne moved to Winter Park with her husband and two young children over 40 years ago, after learning about the city as a reporter for the now-defunct Winter Park Sun Herald. She wrote extensively for that weekly about city issues and local politics in the 1970s.She later joined the staff of the Orlando Sentinel where she specialized in local government issues and in the 1980s served as Winter Park bureau chief. She worked at the newspaper’s Orlando office as an assistant city editor, deputy business editor and member of the Editorial Board before her retirement in 2003. A series of her editorials won a national award for educational reporting from the Education Writers Association in 2003. Geri has published several essays and short stories. She continues to pursue her interest in fiction writing with local authors and is working on a novel set in World War II.

  • author's avatar

4 replies
  1. Fair Play says:

    Why no one from Winter Park on the panel? Only 80 people attended from a city of 30,000 residents? The residents don’t seem to be clamoring for a Historic Preservation ordinance, so who is? The out-of-towners on the panel?

    Maybe if someone from Winter Park was on the panel they could have corrected the panelist who said that 95% of the real estate in Winter Park will never be subject to the increased regulations proposed by the Historic Preservation ordinance. But maybe that was the whole idea. Tell residents attending a big happy story, instead of the inconvenient truth.

    And if someone from Winter Park was on the panel, they might have pointed out an obvious fallacy of the panel. Like, how can a Winter Park resident, stuck with an old house that nobody wants to buy, have more value in it than someone who could sell it to a builder for the value of demolishing it and building another home on the same lot?

  2. Pitt Warner says:

    Do you really expect three professional preservationists to tell the other side of the story? Historic preservation has pros and cons. To present HP as a panacea is wrong. Some people have other opinions about another layer of “preservation”. They think it’s another layer of control. If you want to submit your property to these additional layers, go for it! But the people that don’t want additional layers of controls should be given the choice to opt out. If one person has the opinion that an HP ordinance will harm their greatest single asset, their home, then they should have the right to do with it at as they please.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is not an argument, it is a supposition. Strong, sensible, enforceable zoning will preserve our neighborhoods. We live in an older home, now designated as historic. We have spent substantial money to improve the dwelling and property. However, we would not have moved from a newly constructed home down the street if we had known that our investment in the now designated “historic” home would be at risk. Common business sense suggests that you limit your market of potential buyers by overly restricting land ownership options. If solid zoning was in place, we wouldn’t have out of scale homes being built and violating the ambiance of our neighborhoods.
    This whole thing is starting to look like a form of eminent domain. Existing property owners need protection from the whims of individuals and factions, most of whom don’t live in “historic” homes/districts.


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