2016-02-02 Work Session

Council met for a work session on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 in Council Chambers. The work session began at 7:00 p.m.
In attendance were Council President Jack Mundie, and Council Members Grace Cuozzo, Bob Gavio, Jean Mope and David Sosar.
Erin Hammerstedt, Field Representative from Preservation Pennsylvania, spoke about the historical significance of some properties in Hazleton, and the expected economic benefits from a historical designation. The economic impact includes downtown revitalization, job creation, increase in property values, generation of tax revenue, and tourism activity. She said different types of historic designations can provide varying types of degrees of protection from harm, flexibility on regulations, financial incentives, and other benefits. The former St. Paul’s Church on Maple Street is on the historical preservation list. The Markle Building and the former Hazleton High School were on the list in previous years. She said historical buildings can be registered at a local or a federal level and explained the differences in each. Hammerstedt stated in order for a property to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, it must be significant for its association with history, people, architecture/design or archaeology. The National Register designation provides some level of protection from government projects. It also provides recognition, serves as a tool for local planning and education, and provides financial incentives for rehabilitation, such as rehabilitation investment tax credits, and a reduction in flood insurance premiums. Historic properties that are owned by a municipality or nonprofit and are open to the public can be eligible for up to $25,000 for planning or $50,000 for construction. She stated that historic designation does not exempt properties from building code requirements but there is some flexibility in the code for historic properties. It  does not control or restrict private property owners. She explained the different types of programs available. Hammerstedt stated a local designation can provide the City with the opportunity to regulate demolition, new construction and remodeling in a historic district. Mundie asked what Hazleton properties are on the National Register, and Hammerstedt said besides the Markle Building and the former Hazleton High School, there is St. Gabriel’s Church, the Israel Pardee Mansion, and the Altamont.
Mundie adjourned the work session at 7:30 pm.