Public Act 14-101, An Act Establishing a Property Tax Program to Encourage the Preservation of Historic Agricultural Structures passed in the Connecticut General Assembly on May 7, 2014. It was sponsored by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.
Legislative co-sponsors were: Sen. Catherine Osten, Rep. Jason Rojas, Rep. David Scribner, Rep. Vincent Candelora, Rep. Michael Molgano and Rep. William Aman
Public Act 14-101 allows municipalities to set up mechanisms for offering property tax relief to owners who can demonstrate the public benefit of preserving their barns and other historic agricultural structures while agreeing to a ten year renewable preservation easement on the exteriors. This enabling legislation for our towns and cities gives an incentive to barn owners to keep their iconic barns in good repair. Money saved on taxes can be invested in the barn and other structures associated with agriculture.
Since 2004 the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation has been documenting barns and promoting their maintenance. Barns documented are at least 75 years old. To date, the Trust has over 8,400 historic barns documented in its data base at www.connecticutbarns.org. The Trust has successfully nominated 200 of these barns to the State Register of Historic Places. Agricultural structures eligible for property tax relief must be listed on the State or National Register of Historic Places.
“Barns are clearly a significant part of Connecticut’s heritage and its cultural landscape,” explains Helen Higgins, executive director of the Trust. “Historic barns are often highly visible in our communities. They can be found right on the edge of a street, or at a major crossroads, or in a town center. As such, they are local scenic landmarks and help to tell the story of agriculture and community development.”
Some of our state’s barns are owned by non-profit groups or by a municipality and hence are not subject to property taxes. These barns can access state money for barn stabilization.
The vast number of our historic barns are in private hands, some still in agricultural uses. And a high percentage of these barns are in need of stabilization work, for example, roof repair, sill repair, and mortar repair. Grant money to help with these repairs is scarce. The demand for financial help with repairs, as experienced by the Trust, is extremely high. The Trust hopes that the property tax relief program for agricultural buildings will begin to address funding issues.
Public Act 14-101 is modeled on a very successful program in New Hampshire where eighty-seven towns and cities are now using the state’s tax incentive program to encourage historic barn preservation. 462 structures are enrolled in the program, as of 2013.