GUILFORD -- A "historic core" of Guilford has been recognized with a special state designation that could make it easier to preserve and improve old buildings.
The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development has awarded "village center designation" to Guilford Center, with boundaries that include Broad Brook Grange as well as the town's library, historical society and meeting house, among other structures.
The label comes with tax credits for a variety of possible projects. Officials say the idea is not to spur new development, but rather to ensure that the town's historic integrity is protected in a cluster of properties around Guilford Center Road and Carpenter Hill Road.
"Preserving the historic core for generations to come is really the bottom line of it all," said Michelle Frehsee, Guilford Planning Commission chairwoman. "Deterioration is constant, and you have to take steps to stop some of it. This is one of those steps to help make sure these buildings are still standing for the next hundred years."
Guilford Selectboard in March endorsed the idea of applying for the state's village center designation. The issue also was discussed at an April forum hosted by the Planning Commission.
At that point, the village center's proposed boundaries were in flux. And some changes were in store even after the town submitted its application on May 5.
Two weeks later, on May 19, Frehsee was part of a delegation that traveled to Montpelier to "be present for the application review," she said. Also making the trip were Town Administrator Katie Buckley and Guilford resident Don McLean.
"The three of us really spoke about expanding the historic and civic core. "We talked about the boundaries, and why we felt it was important to include the historic buildings," Frehsee said. "We discussed a lot about how much positive momentum has been going on in Guilford, especially since the 250th anniversary celebration (in 2011)."
During that discussion, Frehsee said, the topic of the nearby Mineral Springs Farm came up. To the local representatives' surprise, state officials decided to expand the village center's boundaries to include that property.
The village center designation as approved by the state includes a few businesses and a handful of residences as well as the grange, the old brick schoolhouse, library, meeting house, historical society and the Mineral Springs Farm.
Properties in that area now will be eligible for historic tax credits, facade-improvement tax credits, code-improvement tax credits and other benefits, according to state documents.
"For income-generating historic properties, it allows them apply for tax credits, which is a huge opportunity for projects to get funded," Buckley said. "It's a way of protecting a historic property for future generations."
For town-owned structures, funding applications for projects within the village center will be given "priority points," Buckley said.
Frehsee noted that Guilford's Algiers Village previously had been awarded a village center designation.
"I think it's part of why we were approved so easily -- because we have a good track record of what we've already done with the village center designation in Algiers," she said.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.