- Historic Preservation
- Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
If the property in question is located in Cumberland's local historic preservation district, known as the Canal Place Preservation District, a Certificate of Appropriateness Permit is required, in addition to other local building permits, for work on properties in this district. This district overlays and includes the:
- Downtown Cumberland National Register District
- Washington Street National Register District
- and a portion of the Green Street National Register District
The Certificate of Appropriateness permit ensures that any proposed work to properties in this special district complies with Cumberland’s Historic District Guidelines (https://www.ci.cumberland.md.us/502/Historic-Preservation-Design-Guidelines) and, by doing so, protects our historic architectural assets as well as the property values of these properties.
If the property in question is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places, or in a National Register District, that is not also recognized as a local historic district, and is not receiving state or federal assistance (in the form of grants and/or tax credits) there are no restrictions on interior and exterior changes as long as the appropriate local building permits are applied for.
Guidelines for historically appropriate rehabilitation are defined by widely-adopted Federal Standards: The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties https://www.nps.gov/tps/standards/treatment-guidelines-2017.pdf.
Qualified structures must be either listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places or located in the:
- Canal Place Preservation District (which includes the Downtown and Washington Street)
- Downtown Cumberland National Register District
- Washington Street National Register District
- Greene Street National Register District
- Decatur Street/Decatur Heights National Register of Historic Places District
- South Cumberland/Chapel Hill National Register of Historic Places District
- Rolling Mill National Register of Historic Places District
To see if a specific property is a contributing resource within one of these districts, consult the maps online at https://www.cumberlandmd.gov/306/Historic-District-Maps or contact Historic Preservation staff at firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Historic Districts are regulatory, National Register Districts are honorary. National Register listing does not protect against demolition, interior or exterior changes. Exterior and interior changes are not subject to review and approval of the Historic Preservation Commission, unless the property owner seeks tax credits or a project utilizes federal funding.
A contributing resource is a building, structure, or site that has historic, architectural, cultural, or archaeological significance. A building’s contributing status within a historic district is decided when the district’s “determination of eligibility” (DOE) for the National Register is prepared. To see if a property is a contributing resource within a Historic District, look at the maps available at https://www.cumberlandmd.gov/306/Historic-District-Maps.
The credit is a percentage of the qualified expenses spent on rehabilitation or construction work. For rehabilitation of a historic residential or income-producing property, the credit is 10% of qualified expenses. For a qualified new construction in a designated Historic District, or a compatible addition, the credit is 5%. Tax credits for each property shall apply for a period that does not exceed 4 years. The length of time that the credit is available will depend upon the cost of the eligible improvements.
The credit is claimed in the year the rehabilitation is completed. If you cannot use up the full amount of the credit in the first year, it can be carried forward. The local credit shall apply for a period that does not exceed 10 year and the length of time that the credit is available will depend upon the cost of the eligible improvements. The Federal credit may be carried forward for up to twenty years, and back for one year. State credit may be carried forward for up to ten years.
The tax credit cannot be combined with any of the local optional property tax credits enabled by Title 9 of the State Code (available here). In cases where one local tax incentive program applies to a project, the applicant must choose which program provides the best benefit for the project. Federal and State Historic Preservation Tax Credits may be combined with local preservation tax credits. The Maryland Historical Trust administers these tax credit programs and can provide more information by visiting https://mht.maryland.gov/taxcredits.shtml.
The cost of many types of interior or exterior preservation, restoration and rehabilitation work on qualified structures may qualify for the historic preservation tax credit, as long as the work does not compromise the status of the historic resource. Historic Preservation staff must review the full scope of proposed work, and will certify those work items that meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation as qualifying for the tax credit. Please see the Qualifying Expenses list for more detailed information. Please contact staff before beginning your project to discuss the scope of work; staff is available to help applicants consider treatment alternatives to ensure that work meets the Standards for Rehabilitation and receives the maximum potential tax credit.
There are four steps to the tax credit certification and application process:
Step 1 – Certification of Eligibility. Application filled out, and documents provided, to determine building is a certified historic structure.
Step 2 - Pre-Construction Work Scope Application. Detail of work planned for interior and exterior must be approved prior to commencement of construction.
Step 2a – Certificate of Appropriateness. Required for properties located within the Canal Place Preservation District, must be approved by the City of Cumberland Historic Preservation Commission.
Step 2b - Addendum/Modification to Proposed Work (if needed)
Step 3 – Certification of Completed Work. Documentation that work has been completed.
Step 4 – Tax Credit Application for Office of Finance. Final step for tax credit to be applied to property.
- What if unforeseen conditions arise during the course of rehabilitation work and changes have to be made to the proposed work plan?
Unforeseen conditions are common in significant rehabilitation work. Staff will advise the property owner to amend the proposed work program, submitting a Part 2b Addendum/Modification to Proposed work. Staff will review the work change to verify that the project still qualifies for the tax credit.
- If I live in the Canal Place, Washington Street or Downtown Historic District, and I am not planning on applying for tax credits, do I have to have exterior changes to my property reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission?
Yes. All exterior changes in a local historic district are subject to review and approval by the Historic Preservation Commission, regardless of whether or not the property owner seeks tax credits.
The Tax Credit Application (Part 4) must be filed on or before April 1 immediately before the taxable year for which the tax credit is sought.
- My property is over 65 years old, but there are already modern additions and updates. Does it still qualify for the tax credit?
Modern additions do not necessarily disqualify the structure for tax credits, as long as the other criteria are met. However, the tax credit will not apply to work on non-historic additions.
Integrity is the ability of a property to convey its significance in seven aspects: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. Staff uses guidance developed by the Secretary of the Interior to evaluate a structure’s level of integrity. For more information, see the National Park Service guidelines here https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/upload/NRB-15_web508.pdf.
- My property was listed in (or determined eligible for) the National Register many years ago. Does this still satisfy the criteria for tax credit eligibility?
The property may need to be re-evaluated by staff for tax credit eligibility if significant changes have been made since the property was listed on the National Register or since the determination of eligibility for National Register listing. In some cases, a property may still achieve County Landmark status even if National Register eligibility has been compromised by previous work.
- I own, or recently purchased, a property with a historic tax credit and want to do additional work to the property, is this possible and what should I do?
If you are planning to do additional work to your property, and are currently receiving the historic tax credit, you should reach out to the City of Cumberland Historic Preservation Planner to discuss your project.
- What types of new construction qualify for the tax credit? What does it mean for an infill structure to be architecturally “compatible” with surrounding properties of a historic district?
New construction in a Historic District may receive the tax credit if the construction is architecturally compatible with the surrounding district. “Compatible” means the infill is designed to respect the predominant scale, massing, setback, orientation and site coverage, rhythm, height, materials, and site and landscape features of the immediate streetscape and neighborhood. For more information, see the National Park Service’s Preservation Brief on Exterior Additions https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/14-exterior-additions.htm.
- What guidelines are used to determine if the proposed rehabilitation work on a historic structure is appropriate?
Guidelines for historically appropriate rehabilitation are defined by widely-adopted Federal Standards: The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties https://www.nps.gov/tps/standards/treatment-guidelines-2017.pdf. Proposed work is assessed by Historic Preservation staff, who meets the professional qualifications to conduct such work as outlined in Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
- If I am not planning on applying for tax credits - can I opt out of having work I want to do, to my building, reviewed by the commission?
No. All exterior changes in a local historic district are subject to review and approval by the Historic Preservation Commission, regardless of whether or not the property owner seeks tax credits.
Yes. As long as the work does not alter the house’s overall historic appearance. High efficient heating systems, solar installation, insulation, and other weatherization projects may be eligible expenses. Please note that existing wood windows can be made more energy efficient with proper repair, including the installation of weather stripping and interior or exterior storm windows, which are additionally eligible expenses.
- Can I replace my windows if I live in the Canal Place, Washington Street or Downtown Historic District?
Window replacement is an eligible expense if the existing windows are not historic or cannot be repaired due to severe deterioration. You must provide photographs of the windows to show their condition and the proposed replacements must be approved by the division. Vinyl or vinyl clad windows are generally not acceptable. If you are approved for replacements, staff will request the product information for the proposed windows.
- Can I install vinyl siding on my house if I live in the Canal Place, Washington Street or Downtown Historic District?
Replacing repairable historic material is never recommended; however, if the historic material cannot be repaired because of the extent of the damage, we recommend that the material is replaced in-kind. The use of modern materials over existing wood or masonry may lead to future moisture damage to the structure and will diminish the historic appearance of the building.
Yes. Generally, only the work associated with the homeowner-occupied portion of the house is eligible. There is a formula to include repairs of the property to areas of the home that are shared with your tenants. Please contact staff for more information. Additionally, your house may be eligible for historic preservation tax incentives for commercial properties.
Yes. If you receive certification for the completed work, or approval of Part 3 of the application, and want to pass the entire credit on to the first purchaser, you may. The buyer needs to live in the house, and needs to claim the credit within five years of certification. This can be useful if you are selling the house or for an organization that does not pay taxes to rehabilitate historic buildings and improve neighborhoods.
The National Park Service administers the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the official Federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. National Register properties have significance to the history of their community state, or the nation. Nominations for listing historic properties come from State Historic Preservation Officers, from Federal Preservation Officers for properties owned or controlled by the United States Government, and from Tribal Historic Preservation Officers for properties on Tribal lands. Private individuals and organizations, local governments, and American Indian tribes often initiate this process and prepare the necessary documentation. A professional review board in each state considers each property proposed for listing and makes a recommendation on its eligibility. National Historic Landmarks are a separate designation, but upon designation, NHLs are listed in the National Register of Historic Places if not already listed.
You can find more information in our What is the National Register of Historic Places section. You can find more information on the National Historic Landmarks program at their website.
The way a property gets listed in the National Register of Historic Places is that the forms and documentation go to the State Historic Preservation Office, the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT). MHT can take one of several options: reject the property, ask for more information, list the property just with the state, or send the forms to us for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Listing in the National Register places no federal restrictions or requirements on a private property owner. You may do with the property as you wish, within the framework of local laws or ordinances. This being said, it is always recommended that any future property owner contact potential insurance companies for specific policy information their company may have regarding insuring a historic property.
Many sites listed in the National Register arrange for a commemorative plaque. Unfortunately, the National Register of Historic Places does not issue plaques as a result of listing; rather they leave it up to the individual owners, if they are interested in having one, and have it created by a local trophy/plaque store of your choice, using the recommended template. For more information regarding the preferred template contact the Maryland Historical Trust.