At its March 26 meeting, the Local Review Board of the Idyllwild Historic Preservation District discussed the possibility of employing the state’s Mills Act to encourage and gain more property owner participation in the protection of historic resources in Idyllwild.

The Mills Act provides property tax relief in exchange for an equivalent investment in the historic property. The local, county or state government must designate the property as possessing historic value.

“In Idyllwild, we have that. Contributing properties [within the Idyllwild Historic District] would qualify for Mills Act credits,” said Keith Herron, staff to the LRB and Riverside County’s chief for resources and planning.

Currently, the Board of Supervisors has not enacted any ordinance for using the Mills Act anywhere in the county. But the County Assessor’s Office works with the cities of Riverside and Palm Springs, which do employ these agreements, according to Herron.

A formal 10-year agreement, a Mills Act or Historical Property Contract is negotiated and executed between the local government and the property owner. These contracts specify the owner must invest in the property, pursuant to local preservation standards and design guidelines. Specific steps and actions for the property owner are enumerated during the contract’s term.

The property tax savings for the owner may be between 40 and 60 percent annually.

If there were sufficient local interest in the program, the Review Board is willing to approach the Board of Supervisors recommending adopting a Mills Act program for the Idyllwild district.

The board hopes to invite the Riverside city preservation officer to its April meeting to discuss its program. Before the meeting, Herron will answer any questions about the Mills Act and its possible implementation. His phone number is 951-955-4558 or email him at [email protected].

When Art Connor asked about what “… the Review Board has been doing in relation to the plan for storage units within the historic district,” Herron said he had been contacted. He said the district’s Design Guidelines do not control new construction. The board can recommend that owners consider the context and the historic district as they proceed.

Herron added that the County Planning Department can be advised the work is being done within a historic district, but the Guidelines do not limit new construction.