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City considering ‘Bailey Bill’ preservation incentives

Posted: June 9, 2015 7:34 p.m.
Updated: June 10, 2015 1:00 a.m.

The city of Camden may soon add another tool to its historic preservation toolbox via what is known as a Bailey Bill ordinance.

The Bailey Bill refers to state laws -- specifically Sections 4-9-195 and 5-21-140 of the S.C. Code of Laws -- which allow local governments to grant special tax assessments to buildings and structures which qualify as rehabilitated historic properties. 

The bill allows local governments to tax a qualifying property at the fair market value at which the property was assessed prior to rehabilitation. In other words, the owner of a historic structure who has qualified for the incentives under the Bailey Bill pays property tax only on the pre-rehabilitated assessed value; the owner does not pay tax on the increased value due to the renovations.

The state statutes allow for the special assessment rate to stay in place for 20 years. 

Camden City Council has been looking into a proposed Bailey Bill ordinance and is currently studying a proposed draft ordinance 

“The Bailey Bill seems to offer reasonable, measurable financial incentives for restoring and improving historic properties, which is only as it should be, if someone is going to go to the trouble of buying a property in need of attention,” Camden Mayor Tony Scully said. “Historic restoration, as we know, improves the value of the whole community.”

The draft is modeled on the state statute. Under the proposed ordinance, the city would tax a qualified property at its most recent pre-rehab fair market assessed value for the 20-year period. In order for a property to be eligible for the special assessment, the property would have to be at least 50 years old and has to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, located within a National Register of Historic Places historic district, or be designated as a historic place.

In addition, the rehabilitation work done on the property must be done in adherence to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, and the cost of the work must be equal to at least 20 percent of the assessed fair market value of the building.

The ordinance also outlines an application and certification process which would have to be followed.

The city of Beaufort, city of Columbia and Richland County are three local governments which have adopted Bailey Bill ordinances. Columbia adopted its present ordinance in 2007; Richland County Council amended its ordinance to mirror Columbia’s in May 2013; the city of Beaufort adopted its ordinance in September 2014.

“Our Bailey Bill has been very successful here in Columbia,” Amy Moore, a city of Columbia historic planner, said. “We’ve seen some good projects happening -- we’re pretty pleased with how it’s working.”

Currently, Columbia has about 80 projects in various stages, some dating back as far as 2001, she said. The city is also seeing a good mix of commercial and residential projects as well.

“It’s a good mix -- there has been a lot of revitalization on Main Street, which we are very happy about,” Moore said.

The city and county worked together to develop ordinances that were not only very user friendly but essentially mirrored each other, making the process at each level simple to utilize, Moore said. The investments can be for a variety of projects, from exterior work to electrical, plumbing, re-roofing, and other such infrastructural issues, making it fairly easy for a building owner to meet the required investment, she said.

“It’s a great deal -- it’s really intended for people to save historic resources,” Moore said.

The tax incentive can be transferred if the owner sells the property within the 20-year window, she said. For example, someone who buys a property which has been taxed at the Bailey Bill assessment level for three years will receive the same tax rate for the remaining 17 years of the assessment period.

It is also possible for a property owner to receive those benefits at multiple levels -- municipal, county, state -- simultaneously, she said.

Camden City Council was not scheduled to vote on the ordinance but was expected to hear a presentation about the ordinance during its meeting Tuesday night.

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