Tips on Improving Your Application

Changes in the design, materials, or general appearance of the exterior of your house or your grounds require a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) from the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission. The blue COA placard posted on a property undergoing work indicates that the work was applied for and approved as required by Raleigh's City Code. To receive a COA you must fill out an application describing the work and demonstrating that it is not incongruous with the Design Guidelines for Raleigh Historic Districts. The application form and Guidelines are available in hardcopy form through the commission staff (919-832-7238; please provide your complete name and mailing address).

Most applications are for "minor work" and can be approved by staff. "Major work" must be approved by the commission's COA Committee during its monthly public hearing. The application form is the same for any project, it is the nature of the change proposed that determines whether or not it goes to public hearing.

Complete applications equal faster turn around times on COA approvals. The RHDC has a staff of two and processes more applications than other cities with larger staffs. You have the potential to improve the efficiency of the COA process by submitting clear and complete applications. When staff members are not searching for additional information to complete applications, they can process your applications faster.

Tips for filling out an application for a COA:

  • Read the Design Guidelines: The Guidelines are the RHDC's "rulebook" so before planning a project and applying for it, make sure you read at least the pertinent sections and believe your project is in compliance with the principles they provide. Understand that why you want to do the work is not germane to the quasi-judicial proceedings in which the RHDC evaluates the proposed work. What counts is what you are proposing and how it conforms to the Guidelines, so make your case based upon the Guidelines!
  • Follow application instructions and completely fill out the form: Staff need to be able to know who you are, what the project entails, and how to contact you with any questions.
  • Sign the application: Applications must be signed to be complete and ready for consideration.
  • Use black ink and 8-½" x 11" paper: Applications must fit into a file folder for record keeping. You may submit color photos, but please remember members' copies are black and white.
  • Clearly describe and show what changes you plan: Put yourself in the shoes of someone unfamiliar with your house and project. Describe the project in detail, including dimensions, materials, and any additional information you believe helpful. All projects are evaluated for conformance with the Guidelines. To evaluate a project, RHDC needs to know the exact materials, appearance of components, colors, how things fit together, and where everything is located. Make it clear what exists vs. what is proposed.
  • Where appropriate, provide drawings of the work you are proposing: Dimension the drawing if you provide a drawing that is not to scale. If the drawing is to scale then clearly indicate what the scale is. The commission needs to be able to tell the size and location of proposed work. Get a COA for the entire scope of the project whenever possible: Don't needlessly apply for a small fragment of a large project at a time, as more applications take more staff time and slow the process. The big picture is important to evaluate the proposed work and will allow you to avoid unpleasant surprises at a later date. Contact staff prior to application if you suspect the project should be broken into separate minor works and major works applications.

Remember - by submitting clear and complete applications, you reduce the number of questions and requests for additional information that slows the approval process. This not only shortens your waiting time, but that of all the applicants who follow you!

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