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[10 on Tuesday] 10 Basic Elements of a Preservation Ordinance


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A key step in establishing a local historic district is to develop the legislation -- a preservation ordinance -- to protect the historic resources in your community.

A preservation ordinance is a local statute enacted to protect buildings and neighborhoods from destruction or insensitive rehabilitation. It also establishes a design review board (known as the preservation commission) and process, which are critical for securing historic district designation.

Developing a preservation ordinance demonstrates the willingness of a community to recognize, invest in, and protect its historic character. And while every community’s ordinance should be written to meet the specific needs of the area, each should have these 10 basic components.

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[10 on Tuesday] 10 Basic Elements of a Preservation Ordinance

  1. 1. Preservation Ordinances10 Basic Elements to Include in Your Draft Photo courtesy Ron Cogswell, Flickr
  2. 2. 1. Statement of purposeClearly state the ordinance’s public purpose.Although historic preservation on its own is alegitimate goal, many jurisdictions have found itpolitically and legally necessary to link historicpreservation to broader community objectives.Photo courtesy ncpttmedia, Flickr
  3. 3. 2. DefinitionsInclude simple and concise explanations for technical terms toavoid confusion over concepts that might not be easily understood. Photo courtesy crdotx, Flickr
  4. 4. 3. Creation of apreservation commissionSpell out the:• commission’s position withingovernment• number of members• member qualifications• terms of office• number of members required for aquorum Photo courtesy City of Marietta, GA, Flickr
  5. 5. Photo courtesy BLMOregon, Flickr4. Powers and duties of the commissionWrite out everything the preservation commission will havethe authority to do. Also outline the nature of the commission’sdecisions, whether required or recommended.
  6. 6. 5. Criteria for designationhistoric propertiesEstablish objective and relevantcriteria for designating districts andlandmarks. In many cases, localgovernments have used similarcriteria to those used for listing inthe National Register. Photo courtesy danxoneil, Flickr
  7. 7. 6. Procedures for historic designationExplain who can nominate properties for designation; how andwhen affected property owners are notified; how many publichearings there are; and what the timetable for these actions is. Photo courtesy Eddie~S, Flickr
  8. 8. 7. Procedures forreviewing changesArticulate what types of changes, such asalterations or demolition, are subject to reviewby the commission. In addition, fully explain thestandards, guidelines, and process of review.Photo courtesy bradleypjohnson, Flickr
  9. 9. 8. Determining economichardshipThis portion of the ordinance is its“safety valve.” It sets forth theprocess and criteria to be used indetermining whether an ordinanceimposes an economic hardship onan owner. Photo courtesy puroticorico, Flickr
  10. 10. Photo courtesy, Flickr9. PenaltiesOrdinances must be enforced to be effective. Penalties canrange from fines to incarceration.
  11. 11. 10. Appeal processMost ordinances spell out a processfor appealing decisions rendered bythe preservation commission orgoverning body. An appealsprovision helps ensure that acitizen’s right to due process is notdiminished. Photo courtesy, Flickr
  12. 12. Ten on Tuesday features ten preservationtips each week. For more tips,