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Florida Historic preservation laws are a variation of the land use laws commonly utilized by local governments. These laws attempt to maintain the appearance of historic structures and visual integrity of historic districts. They are in essence, zoning laws that regulate the appearance of structures, and new development within areas that are designated historic because they are considered historically or culturally.

Once a property receives a local landmark designation, or is identified as a contributing structure in a historic district, the government imposes restrictions that dictate how a property owner may maintain his/her property.

There are generally two types of districts- national and local. Each type of district imposes its own limitations on rehabilitation and new construction. They also provide certain incentives in terms of local and/or federal tax abatement. For example, a property located within a national historic district may be eligible for federal tax credits for income producing property. Local landmarks or properties located within local historic districts may receive ad valorem tax relief for the increase in value relating to a property’s rehabilitation for up to ten years, which is approved by local ordinance.

Although a historic designation has certain benefits to the owners and presumably enhance the value of land located within a historic district, many property owners object to designations. This is because once a property is designated as a landmark or contributing structure to a historic district, even minor changes to the exterior must undergo a time consuming, expensive review and approval process by a local board or commission. These boards are often delegated broad authority and discretion to apply vague and ambiguous standards that may lead to arbitrary and capricious decisions.

Our firm has represented a significant number of clients whose properties have been affected by historic districts or landmark designations. We can assist clients in:

  • Being included in a historic district.
  • Challenging an inclusion in a historic district.
  • Obtaining approvals from local governments to allow modification to contributing or landmark properties.
  • Obtaining federal and local tax credits for properties, including tax relief for historic preservation conservation easements for exterior facades.
  • Obtaining approvals from local governments to allow for the demolition of historic structures by convincing the local government that rehabilitation is economically unfeasible.

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