Lawrence residents met the Neighborhood Revitalization Act with enthusiasm at a meeting Wednesday night, leaving some asking, "Where do I apply?"
The act is designed to entice homeowners to spruce up properties by offering rebates for taxes on home improvements. Homeowners who add a fireplace or install a new porch get rebates for taxes on the difference in home value from before to after the improvements.
Members of the Oread and Old West Lawrence neighborhood associations, representatives from other neighborhood groups, city commission candidates, school board representatives and others were attendance. More than 50 people gathered at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., to ask questions and hear Lawrence Planning Department official Dennis Enslinger describe the nuts and bolts of the 1994 act.
Jane Gerstner, secretary of the Oread Neighborhood Assn., helped plan the meeting.
"A lot of interest is generating to make revitalization of older homes a more feasible and affordable possibility," Gerstner said . "I think a lot of us want to know more and see how this can be put to use in our neighborhoods."
Enslinger explained that under the act homeowners make improvements and pay taxes as usual. Later in the year, they apply for an incremental tax rebate on improvements.
Taxing agencies, whether the city, county or school district, are not hurt by the act, Enslinger explained. They don't accrue less revenue because property values wouldn't have been raised if not for the improvements. During a period of time, the homeowner would receive rebates, usually prorated during a period of 5 to 10 years. Through time, Enslinger said, the taxing agencies actually receive more money because the improved homes have risen in value.
The act is very broad, leaving it up to one or more taxing agencies to decide the criteria for eligibility, amount of rebate and period of years rebates are given.
"It really is a nice tool because it's so flexible," Enslinger said. "You as a community can decide what's important."
By the meeting's end, the question was not only, "Where do I apply?" but also "Where do we go from here?"
"The city's not proposing anything at this point," Enslinger said.
It's up to residents to bring a proposal to the city or county. The act is meant to help areas that need economic growth, so the act would likely help only a few neighborhoods, a section of the city or a commercial area.
Neighborhood association residents said they'd be willing to spearhead the initiative to turn the act into action in Lawrence.
"I think we're going to put a task force together with people from all the other neighborhoods and put together a plan that works for Lawrence and see if it will fly," said Ann Goans, Old West Neighborhood Assn. secretary.
City commission candidate Mark Lehmann was enthused about the Neighborhood Revitalization Act and hoped to see it improve Lawrence neighborhoods.
"This is absolutely the thing we should do," Lehmann said.