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Community Preservation Programs

A critical part of community preservation programs are local ordinances identifying historical resources. Locally enacted and enforced ordinances are the most effective means of preserving cultural landmarks. Because they are community enacted and enforced, local ordinances can address the specific preservation needs of a city, town, or county. And, importantly, ordinances provide for a public process for evaluating a threatened building, forestalling eleventh-hour decisions. A typical local ordinance empowers a municipal or county government to create a historic preservation commission, establish local historic districts and landmarks, review rehabilitation projects, and delay or deny proposed demolition permits.

Effective ordinances are developed as a result of local input and consensus, and ordinances will vary in content from community to community. However, a strong preservation ordinance will include a statement of purpose, provide for the establishment of a review commission, outline a process for designating local landmarks and/or historic districts, and include a process for reviewing actions affecting designated places. Many communities have ordinances establishing local incentive programs that assist owners of designated properties. Such programs include low-interest loans, grants, and easements. Members of the review commission also serve as technical advisers and are available to assist property owners in following proper rehabilitation techniques.

Local governments are powerful players in historic preservation, and the Certified Local Government program supports their work by providing technical assistance, awarding grants, and coordinating a network of participating communities.

The Certified Local Government Program, which was established by the National Historic Preservation Act Amendments of 1980, gives municipalities and counties the opportunity to participate as partners in state and federal preservation activities. Municipalities and counties that have local historic preservation programs may participate after they have been "certified." To become certified, a local government must have a historic preservation ordinance, establish a preservation review commission, have an active local survey program to identify historic resources, and provide for public participation.

Certified Local Governments play an active role in the National Register of Historic Places review process. All nominations for places within the jurisdiction of a Certified Local Government are first submitted to the local review commission and the chief elected official (the mayor or county board chairman, for example) for their review and comment. If both the commission and the chief elected official object to the nomination, it cannot move forward in the review process without an appeal to the State Historic Preservation Office.

Certified Local Governments are also eligible for matching grant funds to assist in the implementation of their local preservation programs. At least 10 percent of the federal Historic Preservation Fund is set aside specifically for Certified Local Governments. The funds can be used for a variety of projects, including surveys, preservation plans, staff support, and public education.

If you have questions about local preservation or about becoming a CLG, please contact:

Jon Pressley, Local Government Services Coordinator | 217-785-5730 |