Representatives from Indian Beach Sapphire Shores and Gulf Gate said during the Feb. 8 CONA meeting that their neighborhoods are considering applying for the status
Nationally and locally designated historic districts can strengthen property values and preserve significant architecture, the immediate past manager of historical resources for Sarasota County told a community audience this week. Yet, one Sarasota County neighborhood is considering historic designation as means to help keep at bay what its homeowners see as incompatible development.
The latter concern is behind a preliminary look some Gulf Gate residents are taking into whether their neighborhood — whose homes were built mostly from the late 1950s into the 1960s — should become a historic district.
For local and national designation, houses typically must be 50 years old, Lorrie Muldowney explained during the Feb. 8 meeting of the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA), which was dedicated to the topic Historic preservation adds value to your home and community. In some cases, the designations make owners eligible for grants or tax incentives for rehabilitation projects, she pointed out.
Some Gulf Gate residents are considering historic designation, however, as a means of preserving the scale and feel of the neighborhood.
During the question-and-answer session following Muldowney’s presentation, Robert Franske asked what the fastest step would be toward establishing “some historic protection for the neighborhood.”
His concern is that a developer wants to purchase the 48.9-acre Gulf Gate Golf Course on Bispham Road and then build a gated enclave of homes on the site.
According to a website page titled Stop Gulf Gate Course Rezone, established by the Gulf Gate Community Association, the developer is petitioning Sarasota County to change the zoning of the golf course so he can construct a private cluster of 108 units on lots about half the size of those belonging to the Gulf Gate neighbors.
Those plans do not fit into the “throwback, early ’60s” atmosphere of the quiet, suburban community, said Franske, who noted that he recently moved to a 1960s-era home in Gulf Gate.
CONA President Kafi Benz replied that Franske’s neighborhood is a good example of an area that could be eligible for national or local historic designation. “Gulf Gate is a very consistent, sustainable community that has a flavor to it that would easily lead to a district,” Benz said.
The plans proposed by Medallion Home — a Manatee-based firm owned by Carlos Beruff — to build on the golf course is a “compatibility issue,” Benz added. She suggested that the residents also consider looking into an overlay district, similar to the one established in Laurel Park, to help keep development at bay.
Gulf Gate is not the only community weighing whether to seek historic district status.
On the northern end of the county, residents have been “considering whether to move forward in trying to identify Indian Beach Sapphire Shore as a National Historic Neighborhood,” said John Smith, a representative of the community.
Smith had a question for Muldowney: “Is there evidence to show that designation has an economic benefit in terms of property values?”
Muldowney replied that a recent study conducted in Savannah, GA, by a leading economist in historic preservation shows that historic designation does lead to a positive economic impact.
Earlier in the meeting, Muldowney — now a historic preservation consultant — said that studies have made it clear that property values in historic districts rise more consistently than in areas that do not have such a designation. Further, the status helps the homes maintain their value during times of real estate devaluation — such as the recent recession. Even if property values in a historic district do decline during a downturn, they recover more rapidly, she noted.
“Should we be looking at a small piece or the entire neighborhood, which is some 1,200 homes in Indian Beach and Sapphire Shores?” Don Farr asked.
The U.S.-designated historic districts in Laurel Park and the Central Cocoanut community — both in Sarasota — have boundaries that do not exactly follow the borders of those neighborhoods, Muldowney said. One approach, she suggested, is to use unifying aspects of the homes in a particular area to map the boundaries of a historic district.
Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota both have processes that lead to local designation of districts, with each adhering to federal guidelines, Muldowney explained. The county also offers a property tax incentive for locally designated homes, she said, though the City of Sarasota does not. When such a measure was considered in the past, Muldowney added, city officials believed it could slow redevelopment downtown.
“It might be time to take up that conversation again with elected officials,” Muldowney said of the lack of a city tax incentive.