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County withholding support for battlefields' inclusion on National Register

May 25, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

Editor's note: This story was corrected May 26, 2010. In the version of the article appearing in the May 26 print edition of The Herald-Mail and posted online on May 25, Washington County Chief Planner Stephen T. Goodrich was misquoted regarding the effects of inclusion in The National Register.

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners said Tuesday they would not support the inclusion of the South Mountain Battlefields in the National Register of Historic Places without more support from the property owners whose land would be included.

The proposed listing would include 68 properties around Turner's, Fox's and Crampton's gaps, but owners of only half of the properties responded to a letter asking whether they supported the listing, Washington County Chief Planner Stephen T. Goodrich said.

Of the 34 who responded, 19 said they wanted their property included in the register, Goodrich said. That represents 56 percent of responding properties, but only 28 percent of the total number.

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One property owner was indifferent to inclusion, and owners of 14 properties did not want their land included, Goodrich said. Three letters were returned as undeliverable and the rest were not returned at all, he said.

The National Register of Historic Places is a list of properties acknowledged by the federal government as worthy of recognition and preservation for their significance in American history and culture.

Inclusion on the national register carries certain benefits, such as grant eligibility and tax credits for approved rehabilitation projects.

Projects on listed properties that receive federal or state funding, or that require federal or state permits, must be evaluated to see if they negatively affect the property's historical properties, Goodrich said. However, this evaluation does not affect what the property owner can do, he said.

Listing the South Mountain Battlefield area was proposed by the nonprofit organization Friends of South Mountain and by the South Mountain Battlefield Park. The Historic District Commission agreed to recommend the battlefields' inclusion to The Maryland Historical Trust, which administers the national register program in Maryland.

The Battle of South Mountain that occurred around the three gaps on Sept. 14, 1862, set the stage for the larger Battle of Antietam three days later, according to the application.

County Commissioner James F. Kercheval said Tuesday that if the park and the Friends of South Mountain group wanted the county's support for their request, they would have to follow up with the nonresponsive property owners to get more documented support.

"It's not that I'm opposed to the inclusion," Kercheval said. "...To get my endorsement, you have to have crossed a bigger threshold than what we have to get responses."




Property owner feedback



Want to be included:

19 (28 percent)

Do not want to be included:

14 (21 percent)

Indifferent:

1 (1 percent)

No response:

34 (50 percent)

Total: 68 properties

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