City works to improve renovation incentives for businesses, homeowners

Friday, April 21, 2017

Aiken City Council approved earlier this month the first of two votes to amend City Code to make it easier for owners of historic properties in Aiken to renovate and improve their properties. The vote came during City Council’s April 10 meeting.
Local business owners Det and Lyanne Haislip, owners of the True Value Hardware on Laurens Street in Aiken, appeared before City Council in support of the proposed amendment and cheered on its passage. City officials credit the Haislip’s with bringing the tax incentive and all its possibilities to the their attention following their major revitalization of their Downtown commercial property. The couple was unable to take advantage of the credit for their work because the existing ordinance was considered too restrictive. Despite that, they lobbied the City to expand what was possible and help other area property owners make the decision to invest in renovation.
The measure will be up for final approval at the Monday, April 24 City Council meeting.
The proposed amendment would lower the property owner’s required restoration investment from 100 percent of property’s appraised value for commercial buildings, and 75 percent for residential structures to 20 percent for each case, according to Council documents. If owner’s meet that level of investment, they will be taxed at the pre-renovation assessed value of the property for a period of ten years. The resulting savings on City property taxes can be a significant boost and help fund projects to improve and maintain buildings with historic value.
City staff reviewed the state law and drafted the amendment to the City Code presented for City Council’s approval. The amendment states that property owners should put up 20 percent of the property’s appraised value ( $20,000, if the appraised value of the structure was $100,000) as opposed to the full appraised value stated in the current City Code.
“A provision of SC State Law that offers special tax assessment incentives to property owners who improve historic properties has been used to great effect throughout the region and state. A recent staff review of the state code as amended in 2011 shows that SC Code 5-21-140, also known as Bailey’s Bill provides greater discretion to municipalities than presently allowed in Section 38-8 of the Aiken City Code,” Council documents stated.
The proposed amendment would grant City Council power to designate any structure historic regardless of location or district, so long as the property is older than 50 years of age and determined to contribute to the historic character of the surrounding area. The amendment also lowers the investment threshold whereby an applicant can maintain current tax assessment for a period of 10 years following any renovation from 100 percent for commercial buildings and 75 percent for residential to 20 percent in both cases. If approved, the amendment to the City Code would bring it in line with state law.
“We have a provision in place, but we feel that we should do all that we can do to encourage property owners to restore historic building and structures,” said City Manager John Klimm. “Our goal is to get more property owners interested, more property owners to get interested to do what our good friends above the hardware store had done … people who have been at the forefront of getting the City to increase the number of tools in our tool box in restoring historic properties.”
Lyanne Haislip applauded the action and said it may spur she and her husband to redo the second building they own Downtown.
“We appreciate so very much, the support we’ve gotten during our renovations,” said Lyanne Haislip.
Haislip said a contractor taking a tour of the property they sought to renovate, asked if they intended to take advantage of Bailey’s Bill.
“We had never heard of Bailey’s Bill. Aiken’s tax incentive was named something different,” she said. “In doing some research we discovered not one commercial property owner has used Bailey’s Bill.”
Haislip added the new code would go a long way in providing property owners incentive to take advantage of this new opportunity to restore and renovate their historic property.
“We have got to have some leeway,” Haislip said. “This amendment has the right formula… and it allows you to designate the piece of property as contributing without formally designating the site as a landmark. Commercial property is a livelihood and it must change as the purposes change. I believe one reason commercial property owners have not taken advantage of this in the past is because it is too restrictive,”
Council will consider the second of two votes and a public hearing during its Monday, April 24 meeting.
Haislip grew up in the hardware store business founded by her father Bill Franklin. The family business helped give Haislip an appreciation for small business and helped acclimate her with customers and customer service. The Haislips hardware store is now a multi-generational business with all members of the family, from grandparents to grandchildren now working in the Laurens Street hardware store.
The True Value Hardware store building was built in the late 1800s. Susan Wood was the building’s original owner. After Wood’s death in 1888, her heirs sold the building to B.F. Holley and other owners for $16,000. The Holley partnership sold the building to Belk Department Store where it was then sold to Bill and Dody Franklin.
In 1952, a fire destroyed the interior of the building but the building’s exterior, dating back to the 1800s still stands. The Franklins wound up buying C.T. Coleman’s shoe store next door on Laurens Street to expand their business.
In 2011, the Haislips applied to the city’s Design Review Board for a façade grant. With the grant, the Haislips put down $10,000 to be used specifically to improve the front of the downtown building. They are hopeful, this new amendment to the City Code would motivate other owners of historic property to renovate and restore their properties rather than opt to demolish and rebuild.
In 2013, the Historic Aiken Foundation honored the Haislips with a preservation award for renovating the façade of the True Value Hardware Store building. In 2016, the Historic Aiken Foundation honored the Haislips with the Adaptive Use Award for their renovation work on the Suites on Laurens project, which included a mix of residential and retail space in the renovation. An apartment was created above Bone-i-fide Bakery and High Country Olive Oil, and also, renovated a loft above the Laurens Street Antique Store.
The Haislips wanted to restore the building back to its original purpose, a commercial enterprise on the bottom floor with residences on the top. They created Suites on Laurens, four loft apartments all featuring high ceilings, exposed brick walls, with heart of pine flooring.

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