COLONIAL BEACH, Virginia (STPNS) -- Linda Farneth

The Town of Montross has a lot of work to do before it can start utilizing the $500,000 Community Development Block Grant is has been awarded.

Some of that work includes ensuring that policies such as nondiscrimination, grievance procedures, anti-displacement plan, etc., have been drafted, updated, and/or adopted.

After completing the checklist of tasks, the town had only to sign the contract between the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (VDHCD) and the Town of Montross, to begin work. However, an old survey of architectural resources performed in 2001, to benefit Colonial Beach and Kinsale, led to a snag that has delayed the progress by four months.  

Northern Neck Planning District Commissioner Jerry Davis explained that in 2001 Westmoreland County performed a survey of architectural resources for the Department of Historic Resources to help both Colonial Beach and Kinsale pursue a historical designation. These two localities could not be surveyed separately, but as part of a countywide survey.

Davis said that in the survey, a number of properties in the Montross downtown area were discussed, but the one specific recommendation that came out of the study was that the downtown district had the potential for becoming a historical district.

“None of the buildings are on the historic register. The one building they were really focused on was the old bank building and old town hall, which has since been torn down,” Davis said.

Davis explained that although this property was gone, two others were mentioned as potential historical buildings-The Inn at Montross and The Westmoreland County Museum. The Museum previously has submitted an application for historical status, but was turned down.

“Those individual properties, and the study prompted us to feel that there was justification to enter into the programmatic agreement,” Davis said.

The programmatic agreement between the Town of Montross and the Virginia State Historic Preservation Office provides steps, for individuals utilizing CDBG funds, to follow ensuring that any historical buildings or properties are not altered in a way that would remove their historical significance or features.

Kyle Meyer from the VDHCD is providing guidance for the Town of Montross through the revitalization process. According to Meyer, the town does not currently have a historical district in place, however there is a significant number of buildings that are over seventy-five years old, putting them in the possible category of historical buildings.

Federal law prohibits federal funding to be used for any purpose that may contribute to the destruction of historical resources, or that would significantly change them in a way that would destroy or alter their historical character.

There are other factors that contribute to a building’s or property’s historical significance other than age. Meyer clarified, “A famous person such as George Washington spending the night in a building does not make it historical.” However, he said, that architectural features, building materials or a connection to local history are some of the more common reasons a building is designated as historical.

It is important to note that since the Town of Montross does not currently have a historical designation, and one is not anticipated at this time, an individual business owner is not restricted from architectural changes, provided no federal funds are used for revitalization.

If all goes well, the town expects to have both the programmatic agreement and the VDHCD contract signed and executed by March 31, after which revitalization projects can begin.