Department of Planning and Development
Historic Preservation Design Guidelines

Introduction to Design Guidelines

Design review guidelines are criteria which must be considered whenever a historic district commission decides on the appropriateness of a proposed change within a district. Such guidelines are not meant to provide solutions for the commission, but rather they are intended to specify what elements the commission must consider in reaching decisions.

Guidelines make the commission's job easier. By considering the same criteria each time a decision is made, its decisions are likely to be more consistent. Furthermore, if the guidelines are good and the commission uses them regularly, its decisions are likely to be less time-consuming because the commission will be better able to organize its decision-making process. The commission will also be more able to identify problems with designs and to explain them to property owners in a way that they can understand.

Guidelines also make the review process easier for applicants. Property owners have the opportunity to know in advance what criteria will be considered when they submit an application (as required by due process); therefore, their proposals are more likely to be developed in accordance with the commission's standards. Additionally, property owners are likely to believe that they have been treated fairly and equally when they know that the same criteria are being applied to all applications.

Guidelines can serve as a useful educational function for both commission members and applicants, especially when they are published and available to the public. Because guidelines are developed to explain the important physical characteristics of the district, all persons who become familiar with the guidelines also become familiar with the district and its qualities. This familiarity is likely to result in respect for the essential elements of the district and sensitivity in arriving at decisions on proposed changes to it.

The state enabling legistlation requires that a historic district commission "prepare and adopt principles and guidelines" so there is no choice about their use.

This introduction section is copied from the manual entitled, "A Manual for North Carolina Historic District Commissions," by Robert M. Leary & Associates, Ltd., 1979.

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