Local Life: Historic Beaufort Foundation happy to give advice, but not a government agency

mlutz@historicbeaufort.orgDecember 4, 2012 

We're not from the government, but we are here to help you.

That's a take-off on a common misperception that Historic Beaufort Foundation is an organizational function of the city of Beaufort; indeed, that it is a department of city government. You are not alone if you think that.

People come to our office or call frequently to seek the foundation's approval for projects in the National Historic Landmark District or at historic properties outside the district. We are always glad to listen and give advice. However, as a nonprofit, membership-based organization, it is not our function to direct projects through the city's permitting process. We have no regulatory role other than our single vote on the city's five-member Historic District Review Board.

Perhaps that's where the confusion lies.

It is Beaufort that has set the standards and requirements for changes in the historic district based on requirements from the National Park Service, which placed the 304-acre historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. When the city adopted the historic district as part of its zoning ordinance, rehabs, demolitions and new constructions became subject to a review board. That review board adheres to 10 standards mandated by the Secretary of the Interior/National Park Service and to a list of guidelines called the Milner Guidelines included in the Beaufort Preservation Manual and its supplement. This information can be found on the city's website: www.cityofbeaufort.org, or in hard copy at the city planning office or at our office.

The only legal authority Historic Beaufort Foundation has regarding changes to historic properties applies to the 28 properties where it holds facade easements. Those easements require owners to gain our approval for facade changes. Those owners know who they are because they gave the foundation that control in exchange for tax deductions. The foundation's authority in those cases is part of the recorded deed.

All of this brings me back to the first sentence above. We want to help. The Historic Beaufort Foundation is fortunate to have a deep bench of architects, contractors, painters, roofers, plumbers, historians, planners, preservationists, archaeologists whom we can call -- whom we do call -- for help. These volunteers are a great resource for us as we fulfill our advisory role.

It is our goal to for property owners to successfully bring their projects to reality. We do that best when we can meet with them to discuss options prior to the day a decision will be made by the review board. Take us up on the offer. We can't make the decision, but we can help you have a more successful project.

Maxine Lutz is the interim executive director of Historic Beaufort Foundation.

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