Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism
Any community that is interested in establishing an LHD or LHP can gain assistance from the Historic Preservation & Museums Division of the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism (CCT).
CCT, operating as the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), reviews and approves all Study Committee reports and local historic preservation ordinances. The experienced and knowledgeable staff at CCT can provide technical consultation and on-site assistance in determining potential district boundaries, organizing reports, and presenting information to property owners and residents.
Questions and Answers About Local Historic Districts
Prepared by the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism
1. What Is the Basic Purpose of a Local Historic District?
The local historic designation is intended to preserve and protect the distinctive characteristics of buildings and places of historical and architectural significance to the community.
2. What Are the Benefits to Property Owners of a Local Historic District?
Statewide and nationally, experience demonstrates that the existence of a Local Historic District (LHD) creates community pride, fosters neighborhood stabilization, and enhances the appearance and authentic historic character of a designated area.
3. How Is a Local Historic District Established?
Under state law, an interested group of citizens may request that an LHD Study Committee be appointed by the municipality to investigate the potential for a district and to prepare a report.
4. What Happens When the Study Committee Finishes Its Report?
The report is submitted to the local government, the local planning and zoning authority, and CCT for review and comment. A public hearing is held to allow all interested citizens an opportunity to comment on the report.
5. Can a Local Historic District Be Established Without the Consent of the Property Owners?
No. State law requires a referendum among property owners in the proposed district. Two-thirds of those voting must approve of district status. The results of the referendum go to the municipal legislative body for final approval.
6. What Happens When the Municipality Approves the Establishment of a Local Historic District?
The Historic District Commission (HDC) of five regular and three alternate members is appointed by the municipal government.
7. How Does the Local Historic District Affect Property Owners?
Any proposed exterior changes to a property which are visible from the public right-of-way are legally subject to review and approval by the Historic District Commission. Changes include new construction as well as demolition activity. After an owner submits an application for the HDC’s agenda, a formal public hearing is held. In its review, the HDC considers (1) the impact of the proposed changes and (2) the appropriateness of the change to the character of the district. After the formal hearing, at its regular meeting, the HDC reaches a decision. If it finds the proposed change appropriate, it issues a certificate of appropriateness. Work may then proceed contingent upon other town requirements such as building permits, building codes, or zoning approvals.
8. Does the Historic District Commission Control the Use of Buildings?
No. Use is controlled by municipal zoning regulations where such regulations are in effect.
9. What If a Property Owner Wants to Alter the Interior of a Building?
Any change can be made to the interior of a building without approval of the HDC.
10. What About Building Maintenance and Paint Colors?
The HDC has no authority over paint color or any work that is commonly considered routine maintenance and repair.
11. Would Property Owners Have Anything to Say About How an Historic District Commission Discharges its Duties?
Each application to the HDC requires a public hearing and notice of such a hearing. Property owners may attend the hearings and express their opinions.
12. What Is the Historic District Commission’s Role Regarding New Construction in the Local Historic District?
The HDC rules only on the appropriateness of proposed new construction. This requirement does not mean that all new construction must be historic in design or appearance.
13. Can a Property Owner Appeal a Decision of the Historic District Commission?
Yes. Appeals can be made to the superior court for the judicial district in which the municipality is located.
14. Can the Local Historic District Status Be Repealed?
Yes. The ordinance creating the LHD can be repealed by the city or town in the same manner as any other municipal ordinance.
For more information, contact the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, OneConstitution Plaza, 2nd floor, Hartford, CT 06103; telephone 860-256-2800.