Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lanai City Listed as Endangered Historic Place

The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently placed Lanai City, Hawaii, on its annual roster of America’s most endangered historic places.

The Trust’s reasons for listing the property (mostly owned by Castle & Cooke) are described at its Lanai City website. The Trust is a “private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America's communities.” Its annual list does not have the force and effect of law, and it is not part of a federal or state regulatory process. However, its list may provide encouragement for starting the process.

Preserving historic property may be good for the community, but it is not necessarily good for the private landowner. Under HRS § 6E-10, a private landowner cannot begin construction, alteration, disposition or improvement of any nature on his property if it is “historic property on the Hawaii register of historic places.” Under HRS § 6E-2, “historic property” means any building, structure, object, district, area, or site, including heiau and underwater site, which is over 50 years old. However, being a historic property alone does not trigger preservation regulations; it must also be placed on the Hawaii register of historic places.

The procedure for placing a historic property on the Hawaii register is found under HAR chapter 13-198, which is administered by State Historic Preservation Division, Department of Land and Natural Resources, State of Hawaii. Any person or agency may nominate a building, structure, object, district, or site for entry into the Hawaii register by submitting certain information to the Division. The process includes notice to owners and a public hearing before the Hawaii historic places review board. After the hearing, the Board makes its determination based on criteria enumerated under HAR § 13-198-8.

Once on the Hawaii register, private property is shared, in a sense, with the public. HAR § 13-198-9 states that “[t]he entering and ordering of a property into the Hawaii register signifies a recognition that the owner has a historic property, and that the preservation and maintenance of the property is contributing to the State's and nation's historic patrimony, and is thus serving the public.” The private landowner must follow the rules under HRS § 6E-10 (discussed above) and must comply with the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act for any proposed use related to the listed property under HRS § 343-5.

Private property may concurrently be nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places under National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The U.S. Department of the Interior administers the Act. If a private landowner objects to the nomination, the State Historic Preservation Officer may nominate the property to the National register and specific federal criteria will be reviewed before listing the property. See HAR § 13-198-11, 36 CFR pts 60 and 63. Federally listed properties may take advantage of certain federal tax benefits and grants. A federal listing is less burdensome for the landowner than a state listing. The federal regulations specifically state that the “[l]isting of private property on the National Register does not prohibit under Federal law or regulation any actions which may otherwise be taken by the property owner with respect to the property.” 36 CFR § 60.2.

For more on the annual roster of America’s most endangered historic places, see “Preservation Group Lists Most Endangered Places,” NYT, April 28, 2009.

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