Tennessee Preservation Trust

Draft Legislation for Historic Surplus Property

Posted: 01/21/2013

Last Fall, Knox Heritage’s Kim Trent and Ethiel Garlington met with Senator Becky Duncan Massey about legislation that would help local governments dispose of surplus historic properties that also helps preserve those properties. The draft legislation was modeled after a similar measure in North Carolina that has helped preserve hundreds of buildings across the state.

Local governments and other local public agencies sometimes end up owning historic properties for which they have no immediate use. Disposition of these properties requires special care to ensure the preservation of the historic property itself and respect its surroundings. Usually real property can only be disposed of by local public agencies through sealed bids, negotiated offers with upset bid, public auctions or exchanges. These methods create uncertainty, especially when the property is historic and an upset bid may result in its destruction. In Knoxville, Knox Heritage has seen the negative results of this process at the former South High School and the countless unused properties.

In 1979, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill that allows local governments to sell historic properties to nonprofit preservation organizations at a negotiated price, rather than through a protracted bidding process. N.C.G.S. 160A-266 allows for a sale by private negotiation and sale of historic properties (or properties associated with historic properties – such as adjacent properties or sites for property relocation) to a nonprofit preservation organization, such as Knox Heritage or Tennessee Preservation Trust.

That organization may then dispose of the property so long as protective covenants or a preservation easement has been incorporated into the transfer. Through this process conditions for the property’s sale can be developed and a sympathetic purchaser found – without the uncertainty that surrounds the bidding process. Furthermore, the buildings are then placed back in to productive use which enhances their neighborhoods and increases tax revenue for local governments.

As the amendment works through the legislative channels, we hope that you’ll help support the amendment. Currently we are looking for co-sponsors in the Senate and House so please let me know if you have recommendations of legislators we should contact.

We wanted to let you know about this amendment at the beginning of the process. We’ll be keeping you updated as the bill moves forward. We will need as much support as possible from all of you as it moves through the legislative channels.