So said James Grathwohl, chairman of Southold's Historic Preservation Commission and Richard Wines, chairman of Riverhead's Landmarks Preservation Commisison, who came before the Southold town board Tuesday to clear up misconceptions and set the record straight about what, exactly, such a historic district would mean.
The proposed district would stretch from Route 25 in Laurel all the way out to Orient Point, Grathwohl.
Grathwohl said he brought Wines because Riverhead recently embarked upon efforts to create a similar corridor west of the Laurel line.
When individuals came from the New York State Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation office, Wines said, "They came to Laurel and said, 'Why are we stopping here?"
The board briefly discussed the proposal at a work session in July, but Grathwohl said there are a number of public misconceptions that need to be cleared up.
First off, Wines said only after three years have parts of downtown Riverhead been designated as a historic district.
"We're at the very, very beginning of the effort. It's in its infancy," he said.
Grathwohl said no application has been made and Tuesday's talk at Town Hall was the first time the project had been discussed publicly in any detail.
Next, Grathwohl stressed that a historic district is "very different" than designating a structure as a local landmark.
A national historic corridor would mean no restrictions whatsoever to property owners, with no reporting requirements.
"If a building is designated as part of the district, there are no rules that the property owner has to follow," Wines said. "He could tear the house down and nothing would happen. The designation does not bring any restrictions. That's why we've had the support of the Riverhead town board to make Main Street and Route 25 part of the corridor."
The designation offers benefits but no restrictions, he added.
"Our goal in Riverhead is to designate the Route 25 corridor as a National Register district," Wines said. "That would prequalify all of the historic structures along there for tax credits."
When state reps came to review the draft application, Wines said they were not sure all parts of the area would qualify, with some sections of Jamesport featuring a bevy of commercial properties.
"One section that looked good was a good swath of the Village of Jamesport and east to Laurel," Wines said. "They looked over the Southold Town line and said, 'This keeps on going. There's no reason to stop. It would be a better district if we included that area."
Historic resources, Wines said, continue out to Orient.
"This is something that we think brings significant benefits – prestige to property owners that can be turned into dollars," Wines said; tax credits can be used for restoration work on income-producing properties.
"When you see a sign stating that you're in a historic district, it adds an ambiance to the town that brings tourists," Grathwohl said.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said Grathwohl would need to go out and "sell the differences," explaining to property owners that no restrictions would come with the designation.
Councilwoman Louisa Evans questioned why tax credits would only be extended to income producing properties such as bed and breakfasts.
"This has been a problem for years. The federal government has said they won't broaden it," Grathwohl said.
Qualifying as a historic district poses "zero negative impacts, but if property owners choose to take advantage of tax credits, they are pre-qualified."
Evans asked if agricultural buildings qualified as income-producing; Wines said they do.
Russell said his one concern is that current town code does not allow for wireless communication towers on property in a historic district; the Southold firehouse, he said, would be in that district. Perhaps the code would need to be modified, he said.
Grathwohl reminded that no application to the state has been made. "We've got a long way to go. It will probably take us three years to come back for a final review."
The goal, he said, was to garner the town board's support for moving forward.