Historic District or CLG… What Does it Mean?

March 1, 2008 | By More

Written by Dianne Edwards

According to literature provided by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, a local historic district can only be created by a local ordinance passed by the local governing body. Arkansas cities and counties are authorized by the Arkansas Historic Districts Act to enact local laws for the “preservation and protection of buildings, sites, places and districts of historic interest.”

A local preservation ordinance can preserve the visual quality of a historic downtown or neighborhood and allow for future development compatible with the area’s historic character. It cannot require property owners to make their buildings look “more historic.” The ordinance does not prevent new buildings from being constructed in a local historic district but can ensure that new buildings, as well as additions to existing buildings will not overwhelm or detract from the district’s historic character.

The designation of a local historic district allows for the demolition of a building that poses a threat to public safety, regardless of historic significance but can delay or prevent the destruction of a structurally- sound building.

Studies indicate that local preservation ordinances are likely to enhance property values within designated local historic districts. Before designation may be made by the governing body, the local planning commission and the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) are offered the opportunity to comment on the creation of a proposed historic district. The district is not created until the governing body of the city or county enacts the ordinance.

A local historic district commission must first be established and one or more public hearings on the formation of the district must be held. A mayor or county judge may appoint five to nine members to served on a historic district commission, subject to approval by the governing body. Commissioners must be residents of the city or county they will serve and may not be elected officials or employees of that city or county. Commissioners serve staggered three-year terms.

The list of local individuals recommended to serve on the Historic Commission was recently submitted to the Russellville city council for approval. The list consists of Old Town Neighborhood property owners, preservationists, local downtown business owners, organizational board members and several “at-large” community members.

Certified Local Governments

The National Historic Preservation Act calls for all states to establish and maintain a State Historic Preservation Office to implement a state preservation program and to assist local governments’ preservation efforts within their state. Counties and cities that have partnered with the preservation office to promote preservation are called Certified Local Governments (CLGs.)

An Arkansas city or county is eligible to participate in the CLG program if it has appointed a Historic District Commission and has passed a local preservation ordinance designating one or more local historic districts, according to applicable state law.

By joining a CLG program, an eligible city or county gains access to an enhanced partnership with the Arkansas Historic Preservations Program and the National Park Service, including training, technical support and grant assistance.

After designating a local historic district, the appropriate official may apply to join the CLG program. The AHPP will respond within 60 days and will then forward the application to the Secretary of the Interior. If not comment is received within 15 days, the local government is considered certified.

CLG grant projects in Arkansas have included the following: training and staff support for historic district commissions, architectural surveys of historic areas, nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, development of design guidelines, and archeological surveys and excavations. They have also included preservation plans for the protection of local historic resources, interpretive signage for historic sites, educational materials for property owners on preservations practices and brick-and-mortar restoration work on historic properties.

An informative brochure entitled, “Local Historic Districts, Certified Local Governments,” is available at the Main Street Russellville office located in the Historic Missouri-Pacific Depot.

For additional information, contact Boyd Mayer, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, (501) 324-9880. Mayer is available to present additional information on both topics to interested groups and organizations.

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