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Land Use and Zoning


In preservation efforts, zoning and land use ordinances can be a helpful and regulatory way to ensure sites of historic significance are preserved and recognized. Each comprehensive zoning plan should have a historic preservation component combining historic districts and structure significance. Economic concerns (i.e. land value) arise for owners and developers where historic sites are subject to remodeling. While concerns can be valid, land use regulation incentives can be used to mitigate concerns and alleviate economic struggles related to preservation.

Historic Districts

A common way of zoning historic areas is through mapping contiguous properties and creating a historic district. These areas are typically used as an overlay district over existing zoning. Included in the district are specific boundaries, guidelines for changing the site, historic narrative, and criteria for a board to review and approve applications. However, boundaries can pose challenges in establishing a district when lot lines and vacant parcels are mixed within designated buildings. In this case, the zoning works around areas of uncertainty.

When attempting to alter a structure in a historic district, a specified process must follow.

Changing a historic place most commonly occurs when the upkeep or function of a historic property is no longer realistic. For example, a large single-family home could be split into smaller units. This requires a modification to district density standards or using special rules available to historic districts. However, it maintains historic dignity while continuing to serve a function. 

The only acceptable reason for demolishing the structure is if it is deemed unsafe for habitation and the cost of restoration would be so high, the owner would not restore it, leading to continued degradation. ​

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