April 30, 2019 – In response to December 2016 amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Park Service (NPS) issued proposed changes to the rules regulating nominations to the National Register of Historic Places (36 CFR Parts 60 and 63). Preservation New Jersey members include the development community, architecture and planning professions, historians, and enthusiastic residents – stakeholders whom will be directly impacted by the proposed rule changes. Accordingly, PNJ presented the following concerns for the NPS’s consideration.
PNJ, first and foremost, is concerned that these rules were promulgated without first seeking collaborative counsel and practical input from National Park Service staff, State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), or Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs).
PNJ objects to the amendment in 36 CFR § 60.6 & 10, which expand the opportunity to object to a National Register listing based on the amount of land area owned by those within a nomination area. This provision is in direct conflict with the Section 101(a)(6) of the National Historic Preservation Act, which specifically cites “a majority of the owners of the properties”, not a proportional vote based on ownership size. For the past 50+ years the rules have honored the law’s intended “one property, one vote” for owners wishing to formally object to listing. This proposed rule change not only conflicts with the law, it provides an unfair advantage to those with wealth vis a vis property ownership.
The amendment of 36 CFR § 60.09 (i) eliminating the 45-day deadline for inclusion in the Register is also in direct conflict with Section 101(a)(3) of the National Historic Preservation Act, which establishes said deadline. Further, the requirement for SHPOs to make a recommendation within a 45-day time-frame is unrealistic. Considering the onus for obtaining public comment is on SHPOs, 45-days is not an adequate time-frame to identify, contact, and provide a sufficient response time to affected property-owners – not to mention giving the SHPO time to review any comments and finalize their own recommendation.
The amendments put forth in 36 CFR § 63.4 are unclear at best, but appear to be removing the ability of the Keeper of The National Register from making determinations of eligibility without the direct request of any “concerned Federal Agency”. This flies in the face of the intent of Section 106, which was put in place to protect historic resources from government agencies seeking to ignore their significance.
Overall, the proposed rule changes appear to reach beyond the intent of the December 2016 minor amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act for which they are intending to address. We respectfully request that the extent of rule changes align with the legislative intent, rather than create solutions for problems that do not exist.