North Carolina Historic Districts and Landmarks Law


Part 3C. Historic Districts and Landmarks.
 160A-400.1.  Legislative findings.
  The historical heritage of our State is one of our most
valued and important assets.  The conservation and preservation
of historic districts and landmarks stabilize and increase
property values in their areas and strengthen the overall
economy of the State.  This Part authorizes cities and counties
of the State within their respective zoning jurisdictions and by
means of listing, regulation, and acquisition:
       (1)  To safeguard the heritage of the city or county by
            preserving any district or landmark therein that
            embodies important elements of its culture,
            history, architectural history, or prehistory; and
       (2)  To promote the use and conservation of such
            district or landmark for the education, pleasure
            and enrichment of the residents of the city or
            county and the State as a whole. (1989, c. 706, s.
            2.)
       

 160A-400.2.  Exercise of powers by counties as well as
       cities.
  The term "municipality" or "municipal" as used in G.S.
160A-400.1 through 160A-400.14 shall be deemed to include the
governing board or legislative board of a county, to the end
that counties may exercise the same powers as cities with
respect to the establishment of historic districts and
designation of landmarks. (1989, c. 706, s. 2; 1989 (Reg. Sess.,
1990), c. 1024, s. 40.)
  

 160A-400.3.  Character of historic district defined.
  Historic districts established pursuant to this Part
shall consist of areas which are deemed to be of special
significance in terms of their history, prehistory,
architecture, and/or culture, and to possess integrity of
design, setting, materials, feeling, and association. (1989, c.
706, s. 2.)
  

 160A-400.4.  Designation of historic districts.
  Any municipal governing board may, as part of a zoning or
other ordinance enacted or amended pursuant to this Article,
designate and from time to time amend one or more historic
districts within the area subject to the ordinance.  Such
ordinance may treat historic districts either as a separate use
district classification or as districts which overlay other
zoning districts.  Where historic districts are designated as
separate use districts, the zoning ordinance may include as uses
by right or as conditional uses those uses found by the
Preservation Commission to have existed during the period sought
to be restored or preserved, or to be compatible with the
restoration or preservation of the district.
  No historic district or districts shall be designated until:
       (1)  An investigation and report describing the
            significance of the buildings, structures,
            features, sites or surroundings included in any
            such proposed district, and a description of the
            boundaries of such district has been prepared, and
       (2)  The Department of Cultural Resources, acting
            through the State Historic Preservation Officer or
            his or her designee, shall have made an analysis of
            and recommendations concerning such report and
            description of proposed boundaries.  Failure of the
            department to submit its written analysis and
            recommendations to the municipal governing board
            within 30 calendar days after a written request for
            such analysis has been received by the Department
            of Cultural Resources shall relieve the
            municipality of any responsibility for awaiting
            such analysis, and said board may at any time
            thereafter take any necessary action to adopt or
            amend its zoning ordinance.
  The municipal governing board may also, in its discretion,
refer the report and proposed boundaries to any local
preservation commission or other interested body for its
recommendations prior to taking action to amend the zoning
ordinance.  With respect to any changes in the boundaries of
such district subsequent to its initial establishment, or the
creation of additional districts within the jurisdiction, the
investigative studies and reports required by subdivision (1) of
this section shall be prepared by the preservation commission,
and shall be referred to the local planning agency for its
review and comment according to procedures set forth in the
zoning ordinance.  Changes in the boundaries of an initial
district or proposal for additional districts shall also be
submitted to the Department of Cultural Resources in accordance
with the provisions of subdivision (2) of this section.
  On receipt of these reports and recommendations, the
municipality may proceed in the same manner as would otherwise
be required for the adoption or amendment of any appropriate
zoning ordinance provisions. (1989, c. 706, s. 2.)
  

 160A-400.5.  Designation of landmarks; adoption of an
       ordinance; criteria for designation.
  Upon complying with G.S. 160A-400.6, the governing board
may adopt and from time to time amend or repeal an ordinance
designating one or more historic landmarks.  No property shall
be recommended for designation as a historic landmark unless it
is deemed and found by the preservation commission to be of
special significance in terms of its historical, prehistorical,
architectural, or cultural importance, and to possess integrity
of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or
association.
  The ordinance shall describe each property designated in the
ordinance, the name or names of the owner or owners of the
property, those elements of the property that are integral to
its historical, architectural, or prehistorical value, including
the land area of the property so designated, and any other
information the governing board deems necessary.  For each
building, structure, site, area, or object so designated as a
historic landmark, the ordinance shall require that the waiting
period set forth in this Part be observed prior to its
demolition. For each designated landmark, the ordinance may also
provide for a suitable sign on the property indicating that the
property has been so designated.  If the owner consents, the
sign shall be placed upon the property.  If the owner objects,
the sign shall be placed on a nearby public right-of-way. (1989,
c. 706, s. 2.)
  

 160A-400.6.  Required landmark designation procedures.
  As a guide for the identification and evaluation of
landmarks, the commission shall undertake, at the earliest
possible time and consistent with the resources available to it,
an inventory of properties of historical, architectural,
prehistorical, and cultural significance within its
jurisdiction. Such inventories and any additions or revisions
thereof shall be submitted as expeditiously as possible to the
Office of Archives and History. No ordinance designating a
historic building, structure, site, area or object as a landmark
nor any amendment thereto may be adopted, nor may any property
be accepted or acquired by a preservation commission or the
governing board of a municipality, until all of the following
procedural steps have been taken:
       (1)  The preservation commission shall (i) prepare and
            adopt rules of procedure, and (ii) prepare and
            adopt principles and guidelines, not inconsistent
            with this Part, for altering, restoring, moving, or
            demolishing properties designated as landmarks.
       (2)  The preservation commission shall make or cause to
            be made an investigation and report on the
            historic, architectural, prehistorical, educational
            or cultural significance of each building,
            structure, site, area or object proposed for
            designation or acquisition. Such investigation or
            report shall be forwarded to the Office of Archives
            and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural
            Resources.
       (3)  The Department of Cultural Resources, acting
            through the State Historic Preservation Officer
            shall either upon request of the department or at
            the initiative of the preservation commission be
            given an opportunity to review and comment upon the
            substance and effect of the designation of any
            landmark pursuant to this Part. Any comments shall
            be provided in writing. If the Department does not
            submit its comments or recommendation in connection
            with any designation within 30 days following
            receipt by the Department of the investigation and
            report of the commission, the commission and any
            city or county governing board shall be relieved of
            any responsibility to consider such comments.
       (4)  The preservation commission and the governing board
            shall hold a joint public hearing or separate
            public hearings on the proposed ordinance.
            Reasonable notice of the time and place thereof
            shall be given. All meetings of the commission
            shall be open to the public, in accordance with the
            North Carolina Open Meetings Law, Chapter 143,
            Article 33C.
       (5)  Following the joint public hearing or separate
            public hearings, the governing board may adopt the
            ordinance as proposed, adopt the ordinance with any
            amendments it deems necessary, or reject the
            proposed ordinance.
       (6)  Upon adoption of the ordinance, the owners and
            occupants of each designated landmark shall be
            given written notification of such designation
            insofar as reasonable diligence permits. One copy
            of the ordinance and all amendments thereto shall
            be filed by the preservation commission in the
            office of the register of deeds of the county in
            which the landmark or landmarks are located. Each
            designated landmark shall be indexed according to
            the name of the owner of the property in the
            grantee and grantor indexes in the register of
            deeds office, and the preservation commission shall
            pay a reasonable fee for filing and indexing. In
            the case of any landmark property lying within the
            zoning jurisdiction of a city, a second copy of the
            ordinance and all amendments thereto shall be kept
            on file in the office of the city or town clerk and
            be made available for public inspection at any
            reasonable time. A third copy of the ordinance and
            all amendments thereto shall be given to the city
            or county building inspector. The fact that a
            building, structure, site, area or object has been
            designated a landmark shall be clearly indicated on
            all tax maps maintained by the county or city for
            such period as the designation remains in effect.
       (7)  Upon the adoption of the landmarks ordinance or any
            amendment thereto, it shall be the duty of the
            preservation commission to give notice thereof to
            the tax supervisor of the county in which the
            property is located. The designation and any
            recorded restrictions upon the property limiting
            its use for preservation purposes shall be
            considered by the tax supervisor in appraising it
            for tax purposes. (1989, c. 706, s. 2; 2002-159, s.
            35(m).)
       

 160A-400.7.  Historic Preservation Commission.
  Before it may designate one or more landmarks or historic
districts, a municipality shall establish or designate a
historic preservation commission.  The municipal governing board
shall determine the number of the members of the commission,
which shall be at least three, and the length of their terms,
which shall be no greater than four years.  A majority of the
members of such a commission shall have demonstrated special
interest, experience, or education in history, architecture,
archaeology, or related fields.  All the members shall reside
within the territorial jurisdiction of the municipality as
established pursuant to G.S. 160A-360.  The commission may
appoint advisory bodies and committees as appropriate.
  In lieu of establishing a historic preservation commission, a
municipality may designate as its historic preservation
commission, (i) a separate historic districts commission or a
separate historic landmarks commission established pursuant to
this Part to deal only with historic districts or landmarks
respectively, (ii) a planning agency established pursuant to
this Article, or (iii) a community appearance commission
established pursuant to Part 7 of this Article.  In order for a
commission or board other than the preservation commission to be
designated, at least three of its members shall have
demonstrated special interest, experience, or education in
history, architecture, or related fields.  At the discretion of
the municipality the ordinance may also provide that the
preservation commission may exercise within a historic district
any or all of the powers of a planning agency or a community
appearance commission.
  A county and one or more cities in the county may establish
or designate a joint preservation commission.  If a joint
commission is established or designated, the county and cities
involved shall determine the residence requirements of members
of the joint preservation commission. (1989, c. 706, s. 2.)
  

 160A-400.8.  Powers of the Historic Preservation
       Commission.
  A preservation commission established pursuant to this
Part may, within the zoning jurisdiction of the municipality:
       (1)  Undertake an inventory of properties of historical,
            prehistorical, architectural, and/or cultural
            significance;
       (2)  Recommend to the municipal governing board areas to
            be designated by ordinance as "Historic Districts";
            and individual structures, buildings, sites, areas,
            or objects to be designated by ordinance as
            "Landmarks";
       (3)  Acquire by any lawful means the fee or any lesser
            included interest, including options to purchase,
            to properties within established districts or to
            any such properties designated as landmarks, to
            hold, manage, preserve, restore and improve the
            same, and to exchange or dispose of the property by
            public or private sale, lease or otherwise, subject
            to covenants or other legally binding restrictions
            which will secure appropriate rights of public
            access and promote the preservation of the
            property;
       (4)  Restore, preserve and operate historic properties;
       (5)  Recommend to the governing board that designation
            of any area as a historic district or part thereof,
            or designation of any building, structure, site,
            area, or object as a landmark, be revoked or
            removed for cause;
       (6)  Conduct an educational program with respect to
            historic properties and districts within its
            jurisdiction;
       (7)  Cooperate with the State, federal, and local
            governments in pursuance of the purposes of this
            Part.  The governing board or the commission when
            authorized by the governing board may contract with
            the State, or the United States of America, or any
            agency of either, or with any other organization
            provided the terms are not inconsistent with State
            or federal law;
       (8)  Enter, solely in performance of its official duties
            and only at reasonable times, upon private lands
            for examination or survey thereof.  However, no
            member, employee or agent of the commission may
            enter any private building or structure without the
            express consent of the owner or occupant thereof;
       (9)  Prepare and recommend the official adoption of a
            preservation element as part of the municipality's
            comprehensive plan;
       (10) Review and act upon proposals for alterations,
            demolitions, or new construction within historic
            districts, or for the alteration or demolition of
            designated landmarks, pursuant to this Part; and
       (11) Negotiate at any time with the owner of a building,
            structure, site, area, or object for its
            acquisition or its preservation, when such action
            is reasonably necessary or appropriate. (1989, c.
            706, s. 2.)
       

 160A-400.9.  Certificate of appropriateness required.
  (a)From and after the designation of a landmark or a
historic district, no exterior portion of any building or other
structure (including masonry walls, fences, light fixtures,
steps and pavement, or other appurtenant features), nor
above-ground utility structure nor any type of outdoor
advertising sign shall be erected, altered, restored, moved, or
demolished on such landmark or within such district until after
an application for a certificate of appropriateness as to
exterior features has been submitted to and approved by the
preservation commission.  The municipality shall require such a
certificate to be issued by the commission prior to the issuance
of a building permit or other permit granted for the purposes of
constructing, altering, moving, or demolishing structures, which
certificate may be issued subject to reasonable conditions
necessary to carry out the purposes of this Part.  A certificate
of appropriateness shall be required whether or not a building
or other permit is required.
  For purposes of this Part, "exterior features" shall include
the architectural style, general design, and general arrangement
of the exterior of a building or other structure, including the
kind and texture of the building material, the size and scale of
the building, and the type and style of all windows, doors,
light fixtures, signs, and other appurtenant fixtures.  In the
case of outdoor advertising signs, "exterior features" shall be
construed to mean the style, material, size, and location of all
such signs.  Such "exterior features" may, in the discretion of
the local governing board, include historic signs, color, and
significant landscape, archaeological, and natural features of
the area.
  Except as provided in (b) below, the commission shall have no
jurisdiction over interior arrangement and shall take no action
under this section except to prevent the construction,
reconstruction, alteration, restoration, moving, or demolition
of buildings, structures, appurtenant fixtures, outdoor
advertising signs, or other significant features in the district
which would be incongruous with the special character of the
landmark or district.
  (b) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section,
jurisdiction of the commission over interior spaces shall be
limited to specific interior features of architectural, artistic
or historical significance in publicly owned landmarks; and of
privately owned historic landmarks for which consent for
interior review has been given by the owner.  Said consent of an
owner for interior review shall bind future owners and/or
successors in title, provided such consent has been filed in the
office of the register of deeds of the county in which the
property is located and indexed according to the name of the
owner of the property in the grantee and grantor indexes.  The
landmark designation shall specify the interior features to be
reviewed and the specific nature of the commission's
jurisdiction over the interior.
  (c) Prior to any action to enforce a landmark or historic
district ordinance, the commission shall (i) prepare and adopt
rules of procedure, and (ii) prepare and adopt principles and
guidelines not inconsistent with this Part for new construction,
alterations, additions, moving and demolition.  The ordinance
may provide, subject to prior adoption by the preservation
commission of detailed standards, for the review and approval by
an administrative official of applications for a certificate of
appropriateness or of minor works as defined by ordinance;
provided, however, that no application for a certificate of
appropriateness may be denied without formal action by the
preservation commission.
  Prior to issuance or denial of a certificate of
appropriateness the commission shall take such steps as may be
reasonably required in the ordinance and/or rules of procedure
to inform the owners of any property likely to be materially
affected by the application, and shall give the applicant and
such owners an opportunity to be heard.  In cases where the
commission deems it necessary, it may hold a public hearing
concerning the application.  All meetings of the commission
shall be open to the public, in accordance with the North
Carolina Open Meetings Law, Chapter 143, Article 33C.
  (d) All applications for certificates of appropriateness
shall be reviewed and acted upon within a reasonable time, not
to exceed 180 days from the date the application for a
certificate of appropriateness is filed, as defined by the
ordinance or the commission's rules of procedure.  As part of
its review procedure, the commission may view the premises and
seek the advice of the Division of Archives and History or such
other expert advice as it may deem necessary under the
circumstances.
  (e) An appeal may be taken to the Board of Adjustment from
the commission's action in granting or denying any certificate,
which appeals (i) may be taken by any aggrieved party, (ii)
shall be taken within times prescribed by the preservation
commission by general rule, and (iii) shall be in the nature of
certiorari.  Any appeal from the Board of Adjustment's decision
in any such case shall be heard by the superior court of the
county in which the municipality is located.
  (f) All of the provisions of this Part are hereby made
applicable to construction, alteration, moving and demolition by
the State of North Carolina, its political subdivisions,
agencies and instrumentalities, provided however they shall not
apply to interiors of buildings or structures owned by the State
of North Carolina.  The State and its agencies shall have a
right of appeal to the North Carolina Historical Commission or
any successor agency assuming its responsibilities under G.S.
121-12(a) from any decision of a local preservation commission.
The commission shall render its decision within 30 days from the
date that the notice of appeal by the State is received by it.
The current edition of the Secretary of the Interior's Standards
for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic
Buildings shall be the sole principles and guidelines used in
reviewing applications of the State for certificates of
appropriateness.  The decision of the commission shall be final
and binding upon both the State and the preservation commission.
(1989, c. 706, s. 2.)
  

 160A-400.10.  Conflict with other laws.
  Whenever any ordinance adopted pursuant to this Part
requires a longer waiting period or imposes other higher
standards with respect to a designated historic landmark or
district than are established under any other statute, charter
provision, or regulation, this Part shall govern.  Whenever the
provisions of any other statute, charter provision, ordinance or
regulation require a longer waiting period or impose other
higher standards than are established under this Part, such
other statute, charter provision, ordinance or regulation shall
govern. (1989, c. 706, s. 2.)
  

 160A-400.11.  Remedies.
  In case any building, structure, site, area or object
designated as a historic landmark or located within a historic
district designated pursuant to this Part is about to be
demolished whether as the result of deliberate neglect or
otherwise, materially altered, remodeled, removed or destroyed,
except in compliance with the ordinance or other provisions of
this Part, the city or county, the historic preservation
commission, or other party aggrieved by such action may
institute any appropriate action or proceedings to prevent such
unlawful demolition, destruction, material alteration,
remodeling or removal, to restrain, correct or abate such
violation, or to prevent any illegal act or conduct with respect
to such building, structure, site, area or object.  Such
remedies shall be in addition to any others authorized by this
Chapter for violation of a municipal ordinance. (1989, c. 706,
s. 2.)
  

 160A-400.12.  Appropriations.
  A city or county governing board is authorized to make
appropriations to a historic preservation commission established
pursuant to this Part in any amount that it may determine
necessary for the expenses of the operation of the commission,
and may make available any additional amounts necessary for the
acquisition, restoration, preservation, operation, and
management of historic buildings, structures, sites, areas or
objects designated as historic landmarks or within designated
historic districts, or of land on which such buildings or
structures are located, or to which they may be removed. (1989,
c. 706, s. 2.)
  

 160A-400.13.  Certain changes not prohibited.
  Nothing in this Part shall be construed to prevent the
ordinary maintenance or repair of any exterior architectural
feature in a historic district or of a landmark which does not
involve a change in design, material or appearance thereof, nor
to prevent the construction, reconstruction, alteration,
restoration, moving or demolition of any such feature which the
building inspector or similar official shall certify is required
by the public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous
condition.  Nothing in this Part shall be construed to prevent a
property owner from making any use of his property that is not
prohibited by other law.  Nothing in this Part shall be
construed to prevent a) the maintenance, or b) in the event of
an emergency the immediate restoration, of any existing
above-ground utility structure without approval by the
preservation commission. (1989, c. 706, s. 2.)
  

 160A-400.14.  Delay in demolition of landmarks and
       buildings within historic district.
  (a)An application for a certificate of appropriateness
authorizing the relocation, demolition or destruction of a
designated landmark or a building, structure or site within the
district may not be denied except as provided in subsection (c).
However, the effective date of such a certificate may be delayed
for a period of up to 365 days from the date of approval.  The
maximum period of delay authorized by this section shall be
reduced by the commission where it finds that the owner would
suffer extreme hardship or be permanently deprived of all
beneficial use of or return from such property by virtue of the
delay.  During such period the preservation commission shall
negotiate with the owner and with any other parties in an effort
to find a means of preserving the building or site.  If the
preservation commission finds that a building or site within a
district has no special significance or value toward maintaining
the character of the district, it shall waive all or part of
such period and authorize earlier demolition, or removal.
  If the commission or planning agency has voted to recommend
designation of a property as a landmark or designation of an
area as a district, and final designation has not been made by
the local governing board, the demolition or destruction of any
building, site, or structure located on the property of the
proposed landmark or in the proposed district may be delayed by
the commission or planning agency for a period of up to 180 days
or until the local governing board takes final action on the
designation, whichever occurs first.
  (b) The governing board of any municipality may enact an
ordinance to prevent the demolition by neglect of any designated
landmark or any building or structure within an established
historic district.  Such ordinance shall provide appropriate
safeguards to protect property owners from undue economic
hardship.
  (c) An application for a certificate of appropriateness
authorizing the demolition or destruction of a building, site,
or structure determined by the State Historic Preservation
Officer as having statewide significance as defined in the
criteria of the National Register of Historic Places may be
denied except where the commission finds that the owner would
suffer extreme hardship or be permanently deprived of all
beneficial use or return by virtue of the denial. (1989, c. 706,
s. 2; 1991, c. 514.)