Certificate of Appropriateness

When an owner of a local historic landmark or a resident within a historic district wants to make changes to the exterior of his or her property, a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) is needed from the historic preservation commission (HPC) in addition to other permits that may apply. The COA grants permission to follow through with proposed work that is compatible with the preservation ordinance. If changes are inconsistent with the commission guidelines, the HPC will reject the application. Routinue maintenance and interior work do not require a COA.

Steps to Receiving a COA

Learn about local guidelines applicable to your project and check with staff if you are unsure whether your project requires a COA.

Complete the application form in its entirety, detailing proposed work. Be sure to include any additional documentation that is required by the commission. The commission may request a site plan and elevations or may visit the property. (Example application forms: Greensboro; Winston-Salem; Wake County). Some HPCs provide a Design Review Committee to answer questions, offer advice, and make suggestions regarding individual projects.

Submit your application before the next HPC meeting. Many commissions require the application at least two weeks prior to the meeting.

The commission will review the application and a decision will be made according to due process in a public hearing, which you are encouraged to attend and answer questions about your project.


Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if my COA request is rejected?

If the HPC made a procedural error in the way the application or hearing was conducted, you may appeal your case to the local zoning board of adjustment. This board does not consider any new evidence. An appeal from the decision of the Board of Adjustment will be heard by the superior court of the county in which the municipality is located.

What happens if I don’t follow the HPC guidelines?

Depending on the severity of the inconsistent work a citation or a stop-work order may be issued.

Do I need an architect?

No architect is needed; however, architectural drawings or detailed sketched and/or photographs may be required.

Can someone speak on my behalf at the HPC meeting?

Yes, if you are unable to make the meeting you may send a representative to speak on your behalf.

Do I need to be present at the HPC meeting when my COA request is being considered?

No, you need not be present for your proposal to be considered; however, it would be beneficial for your case if you or a representative were present to answer any questions or speak regarding your project.

How long will this process take?

This process varies from city to city. Some projects can be approved at the staff level and can take as little as a week to process. Other projects require review at the commission meeting which will lengthen the time it takes for approval. The length of time is not to exceed 180 days from the date the COA was filed.

Do I have to complete my construction work within a specific time frame?

Certificates of Appropriateness are generally valid for one year to initiate work and remain valid for the duration of the approved project. During this time the work may be inspected for COA compliance.

How can I be sure the work I plan to do requires a COA?

If you are unsure whether or not the work you plan requires a COA contact your local Historic Preservation Commission prior to beginning any work, and a staff member will assist you. The HPC has the authority to demand that you reverse any work inconsistent with the historic district’s design guidelines.