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Photograph: Opelousas Historic Commission members discuss issues during Wednesday meeting at City Hall. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

Editor/Consulting Writer

Although no vote was officially taken on this suggestion, Opelousas Historic District Commission members essentially agree that the current role of the organization will probably become more crucial.

During a monthly meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, the Commission emphasized that generous state and federal tax investment credits can now be applied by business owners to achieve downtown economic revitalization. There are guidelines that need to be followed in order to use these state and federal tax credits. The Opelousas Historic District Commission can help in a number of ways during the renovations

The possibility of having renovation costs decrease due to the existence of the credits could motivate downtown property owners to make improvements that could be guided by decisions of the Commission.

 Due to the passage of an ordinance passed by the Board of Aldermen earlier this year, downtown owners have roughly 18 months to revitalize their properties for economic opportunities and prepare them for code enforcement inspection and possible commerce.

The municipal business district also lies within the Historic District, which members conclude make Commission oversight more important, according to Commission member Carola Hartley.

Economic activity created by usage of the credits, which could reach as high as a combined 50 percent, could accelerate, Commission members said.

“The prospect of owners being able to use tax credits to improve their properties is extremely important and it only gives everyone the idea about the purpose of the Commission,” Hartley said during the meeting.

However a recent rise in interest rates, could potentially force owners to think more carefully if they plan to spend money to improve their buildings, St. Landry Economic And Development District executive director Bill Rodier said last week.

At the meeting on Wednesday, the Commission also took action on several requests to modify properties that are included in District boundaries.

505 South Main Street
The Commission approved without much discussion to approve a proposal by Margaret Maddie to construct a fence around the property.

Holy Ghost Catholic Church.
The church located at 747 North Union is seeking to replace a canvas awning at the main entrance with a more permanent structure.

Before granting provisional approval, Commission members questioned the design of the awning, which church officials said will facilitate entering the church.

The architecture of the proposed awning could prevent the church from obtaining future state tax credits and perhaps deter the building from being placed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Commission.

Commission member Jonathan Sebastien suggested that the church submit the awning design to state officials in order to determine whether the structure could interfere with any chances of obtaining tax credits or National Register approval.

Imari Inn
The business at 337 West Landry Street obtained Commission consent to make improvements for fascia boards and exterior rehabilitation assisted by funding from an Opelousas Downtown Development District grant.

A Million Heirs Entrepreneurs Academy
Cilicia Savoy explained that the school at 232 South Liberty will serve as a youth training center.

The Commission also approved a proposal by Savoy to erect a sign that advertises the non-profit school which she said intends prepare youths 13 to 17 years old for technical occupations 

St. Mark United Methodist Church
The Commission also approved a request by the church located at 534 South Market Street for a sign.

Ageless Health Care
Also receiving Commission approval was the business at 330 East Landry Street. The owners of the property asked for permission to occupy a building on the property.

Expanding The District Boundaries
ODD chairman Lena Charles told the Commission that the ODD did not take action last week on a potential plan that extends the boundaries of the Historic District.  

Additional Members Wanted
The commission announced they are searching for citizens in Opelousas who might be interested in serving on the Opelousas Historic District Commission. Anyone with a knowledge of Historic Preservation and may be interested are asked to contact Opelousas Main Street at (337) 948-2520.