BOSTON — Republican Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez put further restrictions on what he could do with his house when he donated a preservation easement to a nonprofit group.
Gomez owns a Second Empire home on Cohasset Common. Because it’s part of a local historic district, he can’t make significant changes to the parts of the house seen from the street without town approval.
In 2005, Gomez donated a preservation easement to the Trust for Architectural Easements.
The Boston Globe reported Gomez took a $281,500 tax deduction for the easement. Democrats have criticized him for that deduction because Cohasset already made it hard for him to alter his house.
But the trust now says donating the easement makes it even harder for Gomez to make changes, and so it is worth a tax deduction because it decreases the value of his home.
“[T]he local historic district commission only has authority over portions of the house that are ‘open to view from a public way, or public park,’ ” said Steven McClain, president of the Trust for Architectural Easements, in a letter to the Globe and to WBUR. “The easement Mr. Gomez donated protects the entire exterior of the home and the open space surrounding it, giving the Trust substantially more authority to protect and prevent alterations to the home’s historic appearance than do the Cohasset bylaws. In addition, the bylaws allow for construction or alterations to be undertaken even when they are deemed to (be) inappropriate under the commission guidelines as long as the property owner can prove a substantial hardship. The Trust easement permits no such exceptions to its restrictions. Further, the Trust must consent — in accordance with its stricter preservation standards — to any reconstruction following destruction by fire, storm or disaster, while the commission’s control over such restoration is significantly limited.”
In 2010, former U.S. Sen. John Kerry wrote to the IRS defending the tax deductions (PDF).
“I agree…that determining the fair market value of a preservation easement is a challenge, but this deduction is a helpful tool for preserving historic structures across the country,” Kerry wrote. “The current situation has resulted in a chilling effect on historic easements.”