Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ April 2009

Historic Preservation Threatened by Knapp Proposal

By Laura Hussey

On Monday, 31 March, the County Council held a hearing to hear public input on County Council member Mike Knapp’s proposed amendment to Montgomery County’s historic framework.  While this issue of the Northwood News went to press before the outcome of that hearing could be included, this issue is still live and will be taken up by the Council’s Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee following the public hearing.  If the proposed legislation makes it out of committee, it will be voted on by the entire County Council.

Why is this of interest to our neighborhood?  There are several reasons.  One is that Knapp’s ill-advised proposal may have a negative financial impact on county residents, including adversely impacting property values and Montgomery County’s standing as a nationally recognized Certified Local Government, as explained in more detail below.  Another is that we live in a neighborhood with a number of properties or groups of properties that may be significant either locally or nationally, but which have not yet been designated in the county’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation.  Finally, the Council is taking up this issue at a time when our district lacks representation on the Council, with the death earlier this year of Don Praisner.  This is unfair to residents of our district.

Montgomery County is home to many properties and collections of related properties that have some significance in our national or local history.  Under the existing historic preservation program in our county, a nonpartisan volunteer commission of citizens with relevant expertise (architects, historians, planners, and lawyers, as well as laypersons) — the Historic Preservation Commission — evaluates properties that are nominated for inclusion in the county’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation.  Nominated properties are evaluated against a set of objective criteria that are consistent with federal law and with state and local preservation programs nationwide.

Preservation is not about protecting pretty houses, it is about maintaining a record that allows current and future generations to understand where we came from as a society.  Sometimes properties that look ordinary to the uninformed contain significant clues to understanding our past.  Once properties are destroyed or irrevocably altered, the opportunity to learn from them is gone forever.  Because of this fragility, Montgomery County has a responsibility to be a good steward of the historic resources in the county.

Unfortunately, this responsibility to be good stewards is often misconstrued as “the government telling individual property owners what to do with their own houses.”  The fact is, there are many benefits from a well-managed historic preservation program.  A designated property and those surrounding it will often increase in property value, and the designated property may be eligible for local, state, and federal grants and tax credits.  Montgomery County is currently recognized as a Certified Local Government.  This program recognizes the county for managing its historic resources well, bringing to the county both national prestige and federal funding for county staff to manage the historic preservation program.  In other words, historic preservation done right increases property values and tax revenues and creates jobs.

Your support is needed to oppose Councilman Knapp’s shotgun approach.  Email County Council President Phil Andrew to let him know you oppose Knapp’s amendment at [email redacted].

More information is available at the following websites:

[Many of the URLs above have been changed/updated from those originally published in the newsletter.]   ■

   © 2009 NFCCA  [Source:]