October 14, 2010

Healdsburg City Council - Phooey!

Howdy folks! Today its time for a zing...

I have been ignored, and this has really ruffled my feathers. Two weeks ago I wrote via email to each and every city council member, including Mayor Jim Wood regarding a little known program in the state of California called the Mills Act. The Mills Act in a nutshell is a property tax abatement program for owners of qualifying historic homes, allowing up to sixty percent savings in property tax to the home owner providing the money is invested in the homes restoration and revitalization. For more information I have posted some of the information direct from the States website below, along with a link to the this information and more.

We are of course the poster children for the Mills Act in this city, and would gain from its adoption, as would many others. In this tough economic climate it is difficult for for people to put out the cash to improve or even upkeep their historic homes. The Mills Act provides a means for improving the visual aspect of our tourist driven wine country environment, setting the stage of the dream and painting our environment with beauty.

But that is not actually the reason for this post. This post is about reaching out to the city council members. Introducing myself and Phillip to them. Inviting them to visit the blog to see what we are doing. Asking them to please take a moment and look at the information on the State of California website to familiarize themselves with the Mills Act if they had not been aware of it before. Inviting each and everyone of them to share their thoughts on the Mills Act with me, the advantages and the disadvantages. An invitation to even say hey.

Well guess how many responses I have received from our very own City of Healdsburg Government... 

Sorry, I just thought this one was cute!

That's right folks... after two weeks not a single council member took the time to even jot a note back.
Too busy I suppose, but they sure are never to busy to shake my hand, and make sure I vote for them...


From the California State Website

Q:  What is the Mills Act Program?
A:  Economic incentives foster the preservation of residential neighborhoods and the revitalization of downtown commercial districts. The Mills Act is the single most important economic incentive program in California for the restoration and preservation of qualified historic buildings by private property owners. Enacted in 1972, the Mills Act legislation grants participating local governments (cities and counties) the authority to enter into contracts with owners of qualified historic properties who actively participate in the restoration and maintenance of their historic properties while receiving property tax relief.
Q:  How does the Mills Act benefit Local Governments?A;  The Mills Act allows local governments to design preservation programs to accommodate specific community needs and priorities for rehabilitating entire neighborhoods, encouraging seismic safety programs, contributing to affordable housing, promoting heritage tourism, or fostering pride of ownership. Local governments have adopted the Mills Act because they recognize the economic benefits of conserving resources and reinvestment as well as the important role historic preservation can play in revitalizing older areas, creating cultural tourism, building civic pride, and retaining the sense of place and continuity with the community’s past.

A formal agreement, generally known as a Mills Act or Historical Property Contract, is executed between the local government and the property owner for a minimum ten-year term. Contracts are automatically renewed each year and are transferred to new owners when the property is sold. Property owners agree to restore, maintain, and protect the property in accordance with specific historic preservation standards and conditions identified in the contract. Periodic inspections by city or county officials ensure proper maintenance of the property. Local authorities may impose penalties for breach of contract or failure to protect the historic property. The contract is binding to all owners during the contract period.
Q: How does the Mills Act benefit Owners of Historical Properties?

A: Owners of historic buildings may qualify for property tax relief if they pledge to rehabilitate and maintain the historical and architectural character of their properties for at least a ten-year period. The Mills Act program is especially beneficial for recent buyers of historic properties and for current owners of historic buildings who have made major improvements to their properties.

Mills Act participants may realize substantial property tax savings of between 40% and 60% each year for newly improved or purchased older properties because valuations of Mills Act properties are determined by the Income Approach to Value rather than by the standard Market Approach to Value. The income approach, divided by a capitalization rate, determines the assessed value of the property. In general, the income of an owner-occupied property is based on comparable rents for similar properties in the area, while the income amount on a commercial property is based on actual rent received. Because rental values vary from area to area, actual property savings vary from county to county. In addition, as County Assessors are required to assess all properties annually, Mills Act properties may realize slight increases in property taxes each year.

Q: Where can I get more information?



  1. Good luck and nice Press Demo Article. If you haven't been in contact with these folks
    maybe you should be:

    Healdsburg Historical Society
    P.O. Box 952
    Healdsburg, CA 95448
    (707) 431-3325

    Usually if your home has true historical significance, the CHS would've been on you with their demands at the close of escrow. With the Mills Act sometimes the savings on property taxes is eaten away by the cost of the required historically appropriate building materials. The loss of freedom to gut your property to make major floor plan improvements is also a factor.

  2. I live in Virginia - I would love a program like you mentioned above as well. Instead our city uses any home improvement we make as leverage to raise our property taxes. Our neighborhood has been declared on the register of "Historic Places" but of course many of the homes need some serious work. Why they wouldn't want to encourage improvement to make the city more beautiful and draw additional people to the area is beyond me. Who wants those things when they can just raise property taxes instead?!

  3. I applaud you both and your questioning why we don't have the Mills Act. I have made pleas at council meetings and the planning dept to be quickly dismissed of this. Our town seems to think people will continue to invest their $$$ and do not really need the rebate/reduction of tax bill. I beg not! This should be a question to those running for city council. Yes continue to post this issue in the media. Check in with the County of Sonoma and to have Holly help you out at the museum. I challenge you to take this issue on and to get the historic folks behind this.

  4. The older homes seem to be a big assest to the city. And having homes that have been improved would be an additional attractant to the city. I wonder why they won't address this program? They must loose something significant if the Mills Act is implemented: money or control.

  5. Yes, older houses or ancestral houses are big assets to the city. That's why we should make proper actions of preserving them.


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