POMEROY — While the entire Buffington Island Battlefield acreage has been nominated by members of the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory for listing on the National Register as the site of the only Civil War battle fought on Ohio soil, it will not be added to the National Register at this time.
As a result of the state board’s recommendation at last Friday’s meeting, a nomination for the proposed Buffington Island Battlefield Boundary Increase will be forwarded to the Keeper of the National Register, as required. However, because a majority of those owning property in the 1,578-acre battlefield area have objected to the proposed nomination, the Keeper, after further determining eligibility, will not actually add it to the National Register because of the objections.
Over the past several months, three public meetings have been held to enlighten property owners, but one resident said not many property owners attended nor were there efforts to explain just how the listing would affect the use of their land.
Bruce McKelvey, who has property in the expanded area being considered for listing on the National Register, attributes the filing of affidavits against the listing to a lack of information provided to the property owners and a lack of land owner awareness of what was actually going on and how it would affect them. He said the land owners were just “playing it safe” because they want to retain control of what they do with their property.
He made reference to the legal notice which appeared in The Daily Sentinel which stated that “Notarized objections and other comments must be submitted to the State Historic Preservation Officer at the Board meeting on October 26, 2012.” It also noted that “a copy of the nomination, the criteria used for evaluation and more information on the federal tax benefits are available at the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.” That notice appeared in the Sept. 13 and 20 issues of The Daily Sentinel. It also announced a public hearing on the nomination which was held Sept. 25 at the Portland Community Center. At that meeting, representatives of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office were on hand to discuss the nomination and answer questions.
However, McKelvey said that all the property owners were not represented at the two meetings held in Portland, that no personal contacts were made, although the indication at the last meeting was that they would be made, that there was a general lack of understanding about what it involved, and for most it was just a matter of “weighing the whole picture, not knowing what was going to happen down the road, and thinking because of our lack of understanding, it was better to play it safe.”
He said that many of the 100 property owners were concerned, that affidavits were drawn up, that some sent them in individually and about 77 were sent in together to the Historic Preservation Office.
Franco Ruffini, deputy state historic preservation officer, said Monday that the state has voted to recommend the expanded acreage of the Buffington Island battlefield to the state preservation officer who will forward it to the National Park Service for a final review. But, he said, because of the property owners’ objections, even though the project is determined eligible and recorded as such, it will not be added to the National Register. However, according to Ruffini, the matter is subject to change if the objections are rescinded.
Eligibility for listing on the National Register is contingent on the basis of a significant contribution to the broad patterns of history, be associated with the lives of people significant in our past, or have yielded, or be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history, according to the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Committee.
National Register listing is a way of raising community awareness to a historic event, such as the Battle of Buffington Island, to preserving an important site, and to recognizing and remembering those involved.
However, listing does not obligate property owners to repair or improve their properties and does not prevent them from remodeling, altering, selling, or even demolishing them if they choose to do so.
Owners or long-term tenants who rehabilitate income-producing properties listed on the National Register can qualify for a 20 percent federal income tax credit as long as the work they do follows guidelines regarding alteration of historic buildings. A similar 25 percent state income tax credit is also offered through the Ohio Department of Development’s Office of Redevelopment.