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Fears allayed

Published February 25. 2012 09:01AM

No, you won't be forced to paint your house a certain color. Yes, you may be able to get tax breaks for restoring historic buildings. And yes, you can do whatever you please with your own property.

The Lansford Historical Society is hoping peoples' questions were answered at a meeting held Friday at the Panther Valley Public Library to further explain the organization's application to have most of the borough listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The borough has been deemed eligible for nomination to the national register. The nomination is awaiting state level review in June and will, hopefully, have secured a place in the register by year's end, Historical Society secretary Dale Freudenberger told those attending the meeting.

He wasted no time in allaying fears of heavy-handed rules if the quest is achieved.

"The listing on the National register places no restrictions by the property owners, unless they seek to use state or federal funding in conjunction with their property. That doesn't happen too often," Freudenberger said. "Private property owners may do whatever they wish with their property, including demolition. Private property owners would not be required to paint their homes or businesses in historic colors."

He said such restrictions "only arise if a local historic district ordinance is enacted and the local community chooses to regulate properties within the district. That's not what this designation is about."

"You just answered my question," said borough Councilman Tommy Vadyak.

Vadyak was among about 15 people who attended the meeting, facilitated by Freudenberger and Historical Society president Bill Harleman.

The Historical Society, with the help of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, applied for the status in the hopes that it would attract more business and government grants. The quest is expected to cost $15,000, for which the Historical Society obtained a matching grant from the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant fund through the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.

Lansford is being nominated for the designation under three categories: As a coal company town, for its architecture, and its history. The nomination focuses on the period from 1878-1954, a time when coal mining provided jobs and resources and when the town was home to the anthracite behemoth, Lehigh Coal and Navigation

Only one other Carbon County town, Jim Thorpe, is listed in the National Historic District. Palmerton is also seeking such designation.

People in the audience listened to Freudenberger explain the process of nominating the borough, and what it entails. A few asked questions about boundaries, and no one spoke against the project.

Freudenberger described Lansford as a "gem in the rough," alluding to its rich history and ripe potential. He spoke of how the listing would benefit the borough economically and culturally, and help protect its historic assets.

The designation would likely lure businesses and tourists, he said, describing the listing as a "tool to promote and market Lansford as a place to live, and a place to open businesses.

"This is not just for history buffs," Freudenberger said.

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