To the editor:

In response to a recent news report and letter to the editor regarding the proposed Preservation & Community Enhancement (PACE) program being debated by the City Council, please allow me to offer the following observations.

The City of Madison is a recipient of a distributive share of a county economic development income tax (EDIT) enacted by Jefferson County in 2004. The city is required to submit to the county a Capital Improvement Plan to receive its share of the tax.

Since the adoption of the EDIT, the city submitted three-year plans with the latest expiring in 2013. In preparing the three-year plan for 2014-2016, the mayor proposed a loan program for the city's historic district that would be beneficial to maintaining and improving the streetscape of the historic commercial district and in aiding historic residential property owners in restoring their buildings. This loan program is now called the Preservation and Community Enhancement loan program (PACE).

The PACE loan program is designed to assist eligible property owners in Madison's Historic District with exterior or structural repairs. It is a matching loan program, meaning any loan amount would need to be matched by the property owner on at least a dollar-to-dollar basis. The maximum loan amount is $10,000.

The primary goal is to promote economic development by encouraging repair and continued use of historic residential and commercial properties.

There are a number of reasons for proposing such a program.

1) Preservation and restoration of historic properties is in general more costly than modern construction due to the need to buy specialized materials and hire specialty craftspeople. In general, the materials and craftspeople are scarce making maintenance, upkeep and repair more costly.

2) There are a significant number of historic district residents who are elderly, on fixed incomes or of modest means. The loan program would provide some limited assistance to these people should they need to make repairs to their properties.

3) The City Historic District Ordinance places requirements on owners of properties in the historic district, not faced by others in the community, by requiring historically appropriate rehabilitation.

4) Preservation is an important component of economic development. Madison is unique for a number of reasons, one being our nationally designated historic downtown.

5) Appropriate property repair can raise property values. Increased property values can generate additional local tax revenue for the entire county.

6) Madison's historic charm is one of the major draws in attracting new businesses, residents and employees to the community. There is a tangible public benefit derived from a well maintained historic district.

Madison is well known throughout the state and the nation for its amazing historic architecture. The PACE program has great potential to make improvements in our historic district which can benefit all citizens, residents and visitors to Madison.

If successfully implemented, it will be another valuable tool in the community's economic development toolkit.

John Staicer

President & Executive Director Historic Madison Inc.