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Historic Preservation

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1.    General Information
Durham has been proactively dedicated to the protection and preservation of its historic resources since the 1970s by inventorying historically significant structures in the City and County, designating local historic districts and landmarks, establishing and supporting the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), and nominating properties and districts for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Durham, as stated in the Durham Comprehensive Plan, is committed to identification, protection and promotion of historic resources as an integral component of quality growth in this jurisdiction.
 
 
2.    Historic Preservation Commission
The HPC holds quasi-judicial hearings to determine whether requested changes to the exterior of historic district or landmark properties are appropriate by state law, local ordinance and historic preservation plans for the districts. The HPC reviews all major, minor, or master certificates of appropriateness. The HPC has nine members appointed by the Durham City Council and the Durham County Board of Commissioners. The HPC meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 8:30 a.m.
 
2013 Schedule/Agenda
Membership Roster
Rules of Procedure 
 
3.    Certificates of Appropriateness
For all properties located in local historic districts or designated as local historic landmarks, the property owner is required to receive prior approval for planned exterior changes. While some changes are considered minor and need no approval (such as painting a previously painted surface) others need to be approved by the planning staff administratively or by the (HPC). This approval is called a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA), and it is required prior to building permit and whether a building permit is needed or not. Decisions on COA applications are based on the local review criteria contained within the preservation plans for each district.

Please note: Planning staff may only administratively approve those applications which clearly conform to the local review criteria contained within the applicable preservation plan and the secretary of interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Administrative COA applications that do not conform to the applicable criteria or standards will be referred to the HPC for review and will become Minor COA applications with the associated required materials, fees, and deadlines.
 
HPC decisions may be appealed to the Board of Adjustment and then to the court system. Following is a sample list of work requiring a COA application, however, many additional items require review as well:
 
•  replacement windows or siding,
•  removal or planting of trees in the front yard,
•  installation of signs,
•  demolition of any structure,
•  site work,
•  fences or walls, and,
•  installation or relocation of mechanical equipment.
 
Contact Planning Department staff to determine what level of review the work you are proposing will require or consult the "Work Requiring a Certificate of Appropriateness" document linked below.
 
a.  Certificate of Appropriateness Application Information 
b.  Work requiring a Certifcate of Appropriateness  
c.  Administrative Certificate of Appropriateness Application 
d.  Minor, Major and Master Certificate of Appropriateness Application 
 
 
4.     Local Historic Landmarks
A local historic landmark is a property so designated by the City Council or Board of Commissioners as a property of special significance in terms of its historical, pre-historical, architectural, or cultural importance; and that possesses integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling, and association. Property owners can apply to have their property designated as a local historic landmark.
 
Designation Process Overview
A pre-application and study list have been established for local historic landmarks. The pre-application for local landmark status must be submitted and approved by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), resulting in listing of the property on the local landmark study list, prior to application for local landmark designation.

Once the property is listed on the local landmark study list all applicants are required to set up a pre-submittal meeting with Planning Department staff to go over the full application requirements and review process. This meeting can be conducted any time as long as the application is submitted between January 1 and April 1. Planning staff will review the application for completeness at the time of submittal.

The application will be reviewed internally following submittal. The staff will generate a report with its recommendation on the application which will then be forwarded to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for its 30-day review. Once SHPO makes a recommendation, staff will incorporate this recommendation into its staff report.

The updated staff report and full application will be forwarded to the HPC for its review and recommendation. If both staff and the HPC recommend against the application, it will not be forwarded to the governing body for review.

Once HPC provides a recommendation, the staff report for all applications that have received a recommendation of approval by staff and HPC will be updated for governing body review. A public hearing will be set for the appropriate governing body to review the landmark applications and make a final decision.
 
Once the governing body has made a decision staff will notify property owners and applicants of this decision in writing. If the application was approved, staff will forward to the owner the designation ordinance and a copy of the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation. At this time, the owner will need to provide a check to the Planning Department to cover the cost of recording the ordinance of designation in the Register of Deeds Office. The cost is approximately $25 but this should be verified with planning staff or the Register of Deeds prior to issuing a check. The applicant will also be responsible for issuing a check to cover the cost of a Landmark plaque (approximately $200) to be placed on the property once designated.
 
a. Historic Landmark Pre-Application 
b.
Historic Landmark Pre-Submittal Request
c. Historic Landmark Application   
  
Once a property is designated, any modifications to the designated portions of the property require a Certificate of Appropriateness prior to making these modifications. Failure to make modifications in keeping with this process may result in the property losing its landmark designation.

For information, contact Lisa Miller in the Planning Department by email or call (919) 560-4137 ext. 28270.

 
5.    Local Historic Districts
A local historic district is a type of zoning applied by the City Council or Board of Commissioners to an area of special significance in terms of its history, prehistory, architecture, and/or culture that possesses integrity of design, setting, materials, feeling, and association (as per NCGS 160A-400.3). Currently Durham has seven designated local historic districts:
 
a.  Cleveland Street 
b.  Downtown Durham
c.  Fayetteville Street
d.  Holloway Street
e.  Morehead Hill
f.   Trinity Heights 
g.  Watts-Hillandale
 
A local historic district is applied using the same procedures used to change the zoning on a parcel or parcels. Residents can petition to have a district designated with the signatures of 25 percent of the property owners. Prior to adoption of the district by the governing body, an investigation and report (Preservation Plan) must be developed describing both the significance of structures, features, and sites, and the boundaries of the district. After a district is established, a certificate of appropriateness (COA) is required for exterior changes to any property in the district. All of this must be done consistent with North Carolina General Statute 160A-400.4. The preservation plan for each locally designated historic district is linked above. Local historic districts can be located using the City’s GoMaps mapping program.
 
6.    National Register Historic Districts
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation. This list can include historic districts or individual properties. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service through each State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and was authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

Listing on the National Register allows recognition of our most important historic resources and provides access to federal and state tax credits for rehabilitation of these properties. National Register listing does not include any restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of private property. However, properties that utilize federal or state tax credits must comply with Secretary of the Interiors Standards for the required period of time.

For information about National Register nomination or state and federal tax credits, contact the SHPO at (919) 807-6570 or visit the website.
 
7.    Demolition by Neglect
Demolition by neglect is the destruction of a building through abandonment or lack of maintenance, or the gradual deterioration of a building when routine or major maintenance is not performed. The purpose of the demolition by neglect provisions in the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) is to prevent demolition of landmarks or structures in local historic districts by the neglect of the property.
 
According to the UDO, a building can be declared to be in a condition of demolition by neglect if one or more of the following conditions exist:
 
•  Building parts that may fall and injure the public
•  Deteriorated or inadequate foundation
•  Defective or deteriorated floor supports, walls, ceiling, roofs, chimneys or vertical or horizontal supports that split, lean, list, buckle, sag, or split
•  Any fault, defect, or condition in the building which renders the same structurally unsafe or not properly watertight
 
Anyone in the community can initiate an investigation of a potential demolition by neglect condition by petition to the planning director. The staff notifies the property owner of the pending investigation and gathers information on the condition of the structure. One or more public meetings are scheduled to gather evidence on the issue. The planning director makes a determination as to whether a condition of demolition of neglect is found. If the property owner wishes to appeal the planning director’s decision, the appeal is made to the HPC.

If a property is found to be in a state of demolition by neglect, corrective measures will be required of the property owner. An order of abatement may be applied for by the City and civil penalties may be assessed for failure to comply with the terms of the demolition by neglect determination. The ordinance provides safeguards from undue economic hardship to the property owner.