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Historic preservation is a “conversation with our past about our future,” says the National Parks Service. It provides us opportunities to ask, "What is important in our history?" and "What parts of our past can we preserve for the future?" Historic preservation is an important way for us to share our understanding of the past to future generations.
Our city’s history has many stories, and historic preservation helps tell these stories. Sometimes historic preservation involves celebrating events, people, places and ideas that we are proud of; other times it involves recognizing moments in our history that can be painful or uncomfortable to remember.
Fayetteville’s Heritage and Historic Preservation Plan is a guidance document for: 1) what the community’s priorities are, 2) what our historic preservation programs and projects look like and 3) what kind of funding and partnerships are available to us to do the work. The planning process begins by asking a lot of questions, such as:
After we receive community input on those questions, we can look at what the plan will recommend and the types of activities we’ll work on once the plan is adopted. Some examples include:
Here are some important details about the types of historic districts and where we have them in Fayetteville:
When you create a local historic district, it’s a type of zoning, and the first thing zoning needs is a description of the property being zoned. This creates a clear boundary so it’s understood what’s included in the boundary or regulations – and what is not.
When you create a local historic district, you also need clear requirements or regulations for the area in the district. For historic districts, this usually comes in the form of adopted design standards or design guidelines that spell out and illustrate what compatible changes to properties look like, and what requirements are for those changes.
Local historic districts also need to specify who is responsible for approving any changes that need special approval. For some historic districts, the changes can be approved by City staff. For others it’s the Historic District Commission. Sometimes it’s a combination of the two.
Because local historic districts are local and specific to a neighborhood, the regulations need to be specific to and fit that neighborhood. Some historic neighborhoods have a historic style residents would like to protect, and they want the regulations to require that any new structures or additions to existing structures match the historic appearance. Some historic neighborhoods have more variation, but they may have common characteristics (like having garages at the rear of the property or facing the side instead of being prominent at the front).
Historic preservation ordinances don’t prevent changes to properties, but they do guide what those changes look like. A historic preservation ordinance can also provide some flexibility when alternative approaches help protect historic structures.
A benefit of owning property in a local historic district is there are requirements in place that manage change to properties, so that any new or additional development has to fit with the existing neighborhood, according to the adopted design standards. It creates some certainty. There is often a public hearing for proposed changes so the neighborhood can be informed on what is being proposed and can comment on new development.
The responsibility to comply with the design standards and get the required approvals is also applied to the neighborhood, with the expectation that exterior changes, additions and new construction will meet the adopted standards. When you have put a lot of investment into a historic property, this is a way to ensure that investment can be maintained after the property changes owners.
Properties that have a local historic district designation usually must go through a design review process when changes to the property are proposed to make sure the changes meet the adopted design standards. This is in addition to any building permits that may be required. For example, if you want to add a garage to your house, before you could get the building permit for the garage you would have to submit your garage design to City staff or to the Historic District Commission. This way they can review the design and check that it meets the requirements. There may be requirements (like the garage being set behind the front of the house, or the roof of the new garage needing to match the roof on the existing house and using the same exterior materials). Once the design is approved, you can move forward with the building permit.
It’s important to note that ordinary maintenance and repair usually do not require design review approval – those are necessary items to keep the historic structure in good condition and do not need special approval.
Local historic districts are the most commonly used tool to protect historic structures and neighborhoods from incompatible changes, but there are other options that have become popular. One of those options is a Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District. Both a Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District and a historic district are overlay districts; however, a conservation district will typically regulate fewer features and focus more on significant character defining features, such as lot size, building height, setbacks, streetscapes and tree protection. Unlike historic districts, conservation districts rarely consider specific elements, such as windows, buildings materials, colors and decorative details. In addition, most conservation districts do not include demolition delays, a tool utilized in historic districts.