Effingham, Holderness, Lebanon and Nottingham have joined a growing number of towns and cities using the state's tax incentive program to encourage historic barn preservation. RSA 79-D authorizes towns and cities to grant property tax relief to barn owners who can demonstrate the public benefit of preserving their barn or other older farm buildings, and agree to maintain them throughout a minimum 10-year preservation easement.
According to preliminary data collected by the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration, by the close of 2019, 100 communities have enrolled 603 historic structures in the program -- a 6% increase over last year.
Freedom, Sandwich, Deerfield, Hopkinton, Plainfield, Stratham and Kingston, Kensington lead the state with 16 or more structures protected; Alton, Candia, Concord, Cornish, Fitzwilliam, Henniker, Hopkinton, Kingston, Lancaster, Lee, Lyme, Marlborough, Moultonborough, New Boston, North Hampton, Orford and Weare all have between 10 and 15 structures protected under the program.
“We are encouraged that 603 structures are now participating in this program, up 4% from last year, and 100 municipalities involved in the program,” said Beverly Thomas, Program Director, New Hampshire Preservation Alliance. “People across the state and their municipal leaders understand the significance of these historic structures, the opportunities to continue to use them in creative ways, and the value these barns bring to the scenic landscape of their communities,” she said.
More about RSA 79-D: Modeled after the state's open space discretionary easement program, the barn tax incentive allows municipalities to grant property tax relief to barn owners who can demonstrate the public benefit of preserving their barns or other old farm buildings while agreeing to maintain their structures through a minimum of a 10-year renewable easement. In return, the municipality provides tax relief of 25% to 75% of the full assessed value of the building and the land underneath it. And, importantly, the assessment will not increase as a result of maintenance or repair work that is performed while the easement is in effect.
Carl Schmidt, chair of the N.H. Historic Agricultural Structures Advisory Committee, is encouraged by the continued growth of the program but also noted that "this important tool is still under-utilized and I hope that more barn owners and municipalities embrace this opportunity to help save an essential part of our state’s character." He commented that municipalities with strong barn preservation advocates or an active Heritage Commission or other group that helps guide Selectboards or City Councils can make a big difference in the use of this valuable tool.
Barn owners interested in applying for the incentive to become effective in the coming tax year need to apply by April 15, 2020. Also of note is that easements that went into effect in the seventh year of the program (2010) for a ten-year term expire on March 31, 2020 unless a renewal application is received by the April 15 deadline. Property taxes on the relevant structures may then increase unless the easements are renewed. Applications for renewal, like new applications, must be submitted to your municipality on N.H. DRA form PA-36-A no later than April 15, 2020.
Applications can be obtained from your town office or download an information packet with application from the Alliance’s web-site www.nhpreservation.org or call 603-224-2281. Applications are also available at www.revenue.nh.gov/forms/2010/documents/pa-36a.pdf.
The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources and the N.H. Historic Agricultural Structures Advisory Committee work with the Preservation Alliance to provide barn assessment grants, publications, tours and workshops, an information network, and a voluntary survey program. The N.H. Historic Agricultural Structures Advisory Committee was established by state legislation in 1999 to support the preservation of N.H.’s historic barns and agricultural structures. The committee is comprised of representatives from state agencies, non-profit organizations and agricultural leaders.
Addition contact suggestion: Carl Schmidt, chair of the N.H. Historic Agricultural Structures Advisory Committee and active with barn preservation and RSA 79-D in Orford. 353-9307
Contact information for others active in the program available upon request.
Barn preservation and the use of RSA 79-D will be a featured topic at the Farm, Forest & Garden Expo, February 14-15, 2020 in Manchester, NH. Stop by the booth sponsored by the N.H. Historic Agricultural Structures Advisory Committee, New Hampshire Preservation Alliance and New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. At an educational session, “Understanding and Caring for Your Old Barn,” free to Expo attendees on February 15 at 1 p.m. John Porter, UNH Cooperative Extension will share new features of his book, “Preserving Old Barns” and Arron Sturgis, of Preservation Timber Framing, Inc., of Berwick Maine, will discuss New England barn joinery. Barn topics will also be featured at the March 21-22, 2020 Old House and Barn Expo.