The initial congressional response to Joe Stephens's Dec. 12 and 13 front-page exposé of facade easements focused mostly on easement promoters and the alleged problem of overvalued easement donations rather than on the fundamental question of whether easement deductions should be allowed [news story, Dec. 18].
Strong, government-administered preservation rules, such as those in effect in Georgetown and Capitol Hill, protect historic resources and increase the market value of private properties. The economic benefit to a homeowner of a guarantee that an area's historic character will be protected typically outweighs any burden imposed by preservation rules.
Historic-district designations are increasingly popular. Because property in a well-run historic district is protected, the voluntary gift of an individual easement provides nothing of genuine value to the public. It also imposes no burden on the donor that can justify a tax deduction, while it confers a windfall on owners who already enjoy the benefits of sound regulatory programs. Rather than limit the waste of taxpayer funds, why not stop it altogether?
JOHN D. ECHEVERRIA
Environmental Law & Policy Institute
Georgetown University Law Center