Op-Ed: Shore Residents should Save the Historic Tax Credit by Nicholas Redding and Katie Parks

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Caught up in the current effort to reform the federal tax code is a critical program that has completed nearly $25 million worth of rehabilitated historic buildings on Maryland’s Eastern Shore since 2002. The Federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) is a 20% credit on the cost of rehabilitating a historic building and is a powerful and efficient tool for revitalizing our nation’s small towns and cities.

For every $1 invested by the federal government, the program attracts nearly $4 in private investment. Better yet, for every $1 in credits, the program returns $1.20 to the federal treasury – actually yielding a profit for the government. The results have been stunning and have changed the outlook for many communities.

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore the program has a long history of revitalizing communities while also saving important historic buildings. Since 2002, in Easton alone the program has incentivized the rehabilitation of $10 million worth of buildings – from main street shops to former industrial buildings. A perfect example is the McCord Laundry facility, home to the Eastern Shore Conservation Center – a mixed-use campus of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and apartments. In Cambridge, the program is supporting the rebirth of Race Street, providing critical equity to make the rehabilitation of the Hearn Hardware Building a reality. The formerly vacant and crumbling building will now host market rate apartments and first floor retail space; yet another positive outcome thanks to the Historic Tax Credit.

Elsewhere in Cambridge, the Historic Tax Credit is incentivizing an ambitious and potentially catalytic project that will convert the vacant Phillips Packing Co.’s Factory F into a hub of commerce, industry, and education. Without the Historic Tax Credit and the New Market Tax Credit program, which is also seriously threatened, tackling difficult projects like this in rural communities would not be possible.
Repeal of the Historic Tax Credit should be of grave concern for anyone who cares about the future of the Eastern Shore’s charming small towns and cities. Reuse of historic buildings will plummet and investment in downtowns will become increasingly cost prohibitive. In turn, property values will sink and local coffers will suffer as property tax revenue plummets. New construction will move to the fringes of communities – resulting in more sprawl and the subsequent loss of farmland. Fortunately, this is a future we can avoid.

Organizations and municipalities all across the state and the Shore are calling on Congress to save the Historic Tax Credit. It’s also a rare opportunity for bipartisan agreement – it was a favorite program of President Ronald Reagan and has been championed by Republican and Democratic leaders alike in this latest tax reform debate. Eastern Shore residents should reach out to Congressman Harris and let him know they support preservation of our historic properties and investment in our towns.

Nicholas Redding & Katie Parks

Nicholas Redding is the Executive Director of Preservation Maryland, the nation’s second oldest statewide preservation organization.Twitter: @PreservationMD. Katie Parks is the Director of Conservation at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, a land conservation and community development non-profit organization. Twitter: @EShoreLandC

An Eastern Shore Land Conservancy Toast to Sandy Hoon

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In a few weeks, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy will be having their annual gala in Kent County to honor one of their organization’s founders, Alexander “Sandy” Hoon, who passed away a few months ago. The Spy was delighted to hear the news of the gala.

While Sandy might have been best known in his senior years as being the father of the well-known attorney in town, Philip Hoon, the legacy of Sandy Hoon’s contributions to Chestertown, Kent County, and a good bit of the Mid-Shore are not only noteworthy but truly worthy to celebrate.

While no one could never accuse Sandy of shyness, like many of his generation, it was not in his core nature to take a bow. Like many of a certain age, he never sought credit for when he and other dedicated Mid-Shore land conservationists, like former Governor Harry Hughes and Centreville attorney Howard Wood, helped formed the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy in 1990.

But the results of that fledgling organization, twenty-seven years later, show how remarkable that achievement has been. Since those early days, literally thousands of acres of some of the Eastern Shore’s most extraordinary landscapes have been permanently protected in all five counties of the Mid-Shore.  Just as importantly, the ESLC has taken on a leadership role in keeping small towns in the region vibrant with such stunning successes like the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton or the transformational plans for the Cannery Building in Cambridge.

The Spy sat down with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s first and only executive director, Rob Etgen, and Sandy’s son Phil to reminisce  about Sandy and his impact on land conservation.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the ESLC gala please go here

ESLC to Host Celebration of Recent Land Conservation Win in Cecil County

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The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) invites the public to attend a celebration and tour of OBX Farm – the site of a recent 460-acre land conservation easement that will eventually be transferred to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and turned into what will be called Bohemia River State Park. The event will take place on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 from 5 to 7pm. This is a free event.

Guests will be treated to refreshments, tours, and inspirational words regarding the acquisition by ESLC Executive Director Rob Etgen. The prime agricultural land, which also contains riverfront access to the Bohemia, as well as a rich network of riparian forests and tidal/non-tidal wetlands, sits just off Rt. 213 in Chesapeake City.

ESLC asks that guests RSVP for the event by emailing Owen Bailey at obailey@eslc.org or calling 410.690.4603, ext. 0.

“Over the course of the past 27 years, ESLC has been involved with literally thousands of Eastern Shore farms. OBX Farms is truly one of the most beautiful we’ve ever assisted in preserving!” said ESLC Executive Director Rob Etgen. “This purchase will keep the land open, free from future development, and most exciting of all, available to the public for generations to come. ESLC is incredibly proud to play a role in this important legacy.”

The acquisition of OBX Farms was fully funded by Program Open Space, which preserves natural areas for public recreation, and watershed and wildlife protection across Maryland. The Board of Public Works unanimously approved the acquisition in June.

For more information, please contact ESLC’s Communication Manager, David Ferraris, at dferraris@eslc.org or 410.690.4603 x165.

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit land conservation organization committed to preserving and sustaining the vibrant communities of the Eastern Shore and the lands and waters that connect them. More at www.eslc.org.

Good Deal: Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and DNR Preserve 460 Acres on the Bohemia

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The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), is preserving 460 acres in Cecil County for the future development of a new state park. The Board of Public Works unanimously approved the acquisition this morning.

The new water-access site, located near Chesapeake City, will eventually be called Bohemia River State Park and will complement existing Maryland Park Service properties in the area – Elk Neck, Fair Hill, and Sassafras. This is a big win for land conservation on the Eastern Shore, and more specifically, Cecil County.

“Over the course of the past 27 years, ESLC has been involved with literally thousands of Eastern Shore farms. OBX Farms is truly one of the most beautiful we’ve ever assisted in preserving!” said ESLC Executive Director Rob Etgen. “This purchase will keep the land open, free from future development, and most exciting of all, available to the public for generations to come. ESLC is incredibly proud to play a role in this important legacy.”

The acquisition of OBX Farms was fully funded by Program Open Space, which preserves natural areas for public recreation, and watershed and wildlife protection across Maryland.

In addition to existing agricultural land that will most likely continue being farmed, approximately 14,000 feet of riverfront property will now be available to the public for kayakers, standup paddle-boarders, canoers, and other activities. The property’s rich network of riparian forests and tidal and non-tidal wetlands will provide for habitat restoration and water quality benefits.

Once the acquisition is complete (projected Fall 2017), the department will develop an interim public access plan for the property, which will enable visitors to enjoy passive, nature-based activities until a master plan can be developed. Public access to the new park should begin during the spring or summer of 2018. The public will have numerous opportunities to comment on the master plan as it is being drafted.

For more information, please contact ESLC’s Communication Manager, David Ferraris, at dferraris@eslc.org or 410.690.4603 x165.

ESLC Puts Large Chunk of Kent County Land into Conservation Easement

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ESLC Puts Large Chunk of Kent County Land into Conservation Easement

KENT COUNTY, MD – Staff from the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) and Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) signed 678 acres of Oldfield Point Farms, LLC. into a permanent conservation easement, forever protecting what land conservationists consider a “keystone Eastern Shore property” – meaning a large, intact farm visible from the road, containing waterfront property, and home to wildlife. The Starkey family, owners of Oldfield Point Farms, worked with ESLC and its partner organizations to make the easement a reality.

Jared Parks, ESLC; Ann Carlson, MET; Rob Etgen, ESLC; William Starkey (land owner); Brennan Starkey (land owner)

The easement is a big win for preserving open space and prime agricultural land on the Eastern Shore. This success was made possible by the generosity of the Starkey family and the efforts of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, MET, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, MD State Highway Administration, and Kent County.

The keystone property has been considered a priority by ESLC for many years, as the number of large Eastern Shore farms that haven’t already been subdivided or preserved is relatively small. The conservation easement protects about one-half of Oldfield Point Farms from largescale development, and preserves the natural resources and prime farmland for the production of diversified grain and vegetable crops.

Also resulting from the easement, a portion of the property’s shoreline now provides public access to a scenic shoreline along one of the Eastern Shore’s most pristine waterways.

“Since 2007, MET, working in partnership with Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, has completed seven easements along the Byway protecting more than 2,500 acres of scenic lands”, adds Jared Parks, Conservation Easement Program Manager for Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. “In addition to protecting lands on the scenic byway, these efforts have also conserved important wildlife habitat and prime agricultural lands. We are very pleased to help protect this important property, further securing the scenic, rural, ecological and agricultural character of this landscape.”

It should be noted that this easement would not have been possible without funding allocated from Program Open Space – the state’s financial and technical assistance provided for the planning, acquisition, and/or development of recreation land or open space areas. ESLC also notes that without the tireless work of former Congressman, now ESLC Environmental Education Director, Wayne Gilchrest, to have federal money earmarked for the preservation of land along the National Scenic Byway, this environmental win may have not happened.

For more information about this conservation easement and/or the work of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, please contact ESLC’s Communication Manager, David Ferraris, at dferraris@eslc.org or 410.690.4603 x165.

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Eastern Shore Land Conservancy

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit land conservation organization committed to preserving and sustaining the vibrant communities of the Eastern Shore and the lands and waters that connect them. More at www.eslc.org.

Ecosystem Long Form: Author John Englander on Rising Sea Levels at the Chesapeake Bay

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As John Englander, noted oceanographer and author of High Tide on Main Street and more recently, Rising Seas and Shifting Shorelines, recently noted in his keynote address sponsored by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy last Saturday morning, one sometimes needs to say something seven times to make sure your audience gets your most important point. In John’s case, it is undoubtedly the under-reported consequences of rising sea levels on rural communities.

As part of the ESLC’s ongoing conversation about the impact of climate change on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the author was invited to give a summary of the research and increasingly grim data has been collected in recent years that points to the Chesapeake experiencing from three to six feet in sea levels over the next one hundred years as opposed to the one to two feet forecast currently being used by local and state government and other policy organizations as they anticipate this severe environmental event.

The Spy was at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center for John’s remarks and present them in their entirety.

This video is approximately twenty-nine minutes in length. For more information on ESLC please go here 

 

 

ESLC Climate Change/Sea Level Rise Half-Day Conference Set for April 1

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The Eastern Shore is the third most susceptible region to the effects of sea level rise in the country. The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), a progressive, environmentally-focused nonprofit organization headquartered in Easton, will host the half-day conference, Unsinkable Eastern Shore II: Rural America Responds to Climate Change, on Saturday, April 1st from 9am to 1pm. The event will be held at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center – the former McCord laundry facility which ESLC rehabilitated and has since occupied with several other conservation groups since 2015.

The event is $20 to attend and includes breakfast, two panel discussions, and presentations by two keynote speakers. Also included with admission is a copy of speaker John Englander’s book High Tide on Main Street, which Politico Magazine called “one of the 50 most important books to read in 2016.” Attendees may register online at eslc.org/events, but are encouraged to do so soon, as seating is limited.

The conference will be hosted by ESLC’s Coastal Resilience Manager, Brian Ambrette, who has been working with town and county government on the Mid and Upper Shore for more than two years, helping to bring awareness about the effects of climate change – most notably, sea level rise – as well as working to help implement sound planning in the form of mitigation strategies and town/county comprehensive plans.

“I hope our audience will learn how their communities and their neighbors are embracing change as an opportunity to innovate and make the systems we rely on stronger and greener”, notes Ambrette. “I am excited about the new ideas that our keynote speakers will inject into the conversation.”

While the conference panels boast a mix of knowledgeable educators and emergency management professionals, the inclusion of oceanographer, author, and consultant John Englander is perhaps the most impressive addition to the conference. As a leading expert on sea level rise, Englander’s broad marine science background coupled with explorations to Greenland and Antarctica has allowed him to see the big picture of sea level rise and its societal impacts. He has served as chief executive officer for such noteworthy organizations as The International SeaKeepers and The Cousteau Society. Interestingly enough, legendary Captain Jacques Cousteau tapped John to succeed him as CEO.

Please contact ESLC’s Communication Manager, David Ferraris, at dferraris@eslc.org or 410.690.4603 x165 for more information.

Senator Ben Cardin Set to Visit ESLC Cambridge Project March 10

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Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) will be visiting Cambridge, Maryland on Friday, March 10, 2017 to join join representatives from the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), Baltimore’s Cross Street Partners, and Preservation Maryland for a tour and media availability regarding The Packing House – a historic tax credit rehabilitation project.

In addition to addressing the media and answering questions immediately following the tour, Senator Cardin will spotlight his new legislation to improve the federal historic tax credit program, which will benefit rural communities and small towns across Maryland.

A partnership between ESLC, Cross Street Partners, and the City of Cambridge, The Packing House (ThePackingHouseCambridge.com) is an urban revitalization project that seeks to repurpose the historic, 60,000 square-foot Phillips Cannery building in Cambridge into an active, mixed-use plan for office and food-related innovation.

This structure is the last standing piece of the storied Phillips Packing Company empire, which employed thousands in Cambridge and served as the largest supplier of rations to American troops in World War II.

The project was recently awarded a $3M historic tax credit for revitalization of a structure located within an underserved community. Plans include an array of food-related uses that acknowledge and support local hunger and nutrition needs, building off of the Eastern Shore’s agricultural resources and a growing local food economy of growers, makers, distributors, retailers, and restaurants.

The ambitious vision to renovate and repurpose the former Phillips ‘Factory F’ is key to the continued revitalization of Cambridge, including Cannery Park – the adjacent 6.6 acres of land which includes the Cambridge Creek headwater area that will begin a stream restoration process this coming spring.

The event is free and open to interested members of the public, friends of ESLC, and the media. For members of the media planning to attend the grand opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center immediately afterwards, a bus will be held at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge so that they will be able to attend both events. Please contact ESLC’s Communication Manager, David Ferraris, at dferraris@eslc.org or 410.690.4603 x165 for more information.

LOCATION: Phillips Packing Plant, 411 Dorchester Avenue, Cambridge, MD 21613
AGENDA: Arrive at Packing House 11:15am; Tour the building; Press availability 11:40am; Depart Packing House at 12:00pm.

Phillips Packing Company in Cambridge Selected to Receive Historic Preservation Tax Credit Award

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Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) announced today that the Phillips Cannery ‘Factory F’ received a $3M (of $9M available) Maryland Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit award reservation for fiscal year 2017 from the Maryland Department of Planning. The project is amongst only eight projects selected statewide based on the urgency of the need for rehabilitation and the strategic location of the project. The rehabilitation of the Phillips Cannery will not only help Cambridge revive one of Maryland’s precious resources, but also assist in sustaining vitality in the community. The tax credit program is regarded as one of the most effective tools for revitalizing historic communities.

A joint venture between ESLC and Baltimore’s Cross Street Partners, the project is moving forward in an effort to repurpose Factory F as a hub for creative food production, retail and small business, and entrepreneurial initiatives that build off of the Eastern Shore’s famed farming resources and growing local food economy. More specifically, the “Food and Farming Exchange” would include a microbrewery, kitchen incubator and market, shared-use office innovation hub, oyster bar, and event space available for rent to the community.

But the financial piece of the puzzle isn’t complete just yet. With a price tag of $18.5M, the new Phillips building still faces stiff headwinds in raising additional funding and securing tenants who will bring the renovated building to life. With an incredible commitment from town/county/state/federal government, along with the support of the food and farming communities of Cambridge and the Eastern Shore, ESLC believes that a rehabilitated Phillips Factory F would provide enormous upsides for everyone involved.

In an effort to combat sprawl on Maryland’s scenic Eastern Shore, ESLC founded its Center for Towns Program in 2011. Director Katie Parks leads the organization’s offer of technical support with projects involving the planned conversion of empty lots, underused or rundown buildings, and other available space within a town’s already existing infrastructure as an alternative to overdevelopment of rural areas.

The 60,000 sq ft historic Factory F building is significant due to its association with events that shaped the history of Cambridge. Originally built in 1920 as a furniture factory, the building later became part of the Phillips Packing Company empire which employed thousands in Cambridge, purchasing upwards of 1 million dollars in product from Delmarva farmers annually. The building, while neglected and vacant since the 1960’s, was the only structure spared from demolition and features an open floor plan, soaring ceilings, and the opportunity to retain many historic architectural features that will impart the space with an authentic, Eastern Shore manufacturing aesthetic.