How can I find out if my property is in a local historic district (or proposed local historic district)?

Call the Preservation Office at 399-2217 to determine if your property falls within the boundaries of a local historic district, check the official zoning map for boundaries, or go to the maps of the districts and locate your property.

If it is, what does this mean for me as a property owner? What kind of changes can I make to my property?

Historic districts are not designed to prevent changes. Rather, they assist in shaping changes that enhance the historic assets that make a property and district unique. The local historic district protects assets by establishing a special design review process known as a Certificate of Appropriateness to ensure that proposed work is compatible with the nature of the property and character of the surrounding properties in the historic district. Plans for exterior alterations, new construction, demolitions, or moving of buildings are reviewed before any work may begin, and the permit issued. This includes plans for additions to existing buildings, removal or enclosure of porches, erection of signs, retaining walls, decks, etc. Wilson 's local historic district designation is a zoning overlay. The designation affects only the exterior appearance of buildings and landscape features; the use of the building is not addressed, but is subject to the underlying zoning regulations.

How do I begin the process of applying for a Certificate of Appropriateness?

Obtain an application form from the Historic Preservation Office, located on the second floor of the Municipal Building . Photographs and drawings depicting the proposed changes will be required for the review process. When you apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness, your application is forwarded to the Historic Preservation Commission. This 9-member quasi-judicial commission is appointed by the City Council and holds public hearings on the first Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. when COA applications have been received. A decision is usually reached on an application during the first meeting at which a case is heard, however, the commission must act on an application within 180 days from filing or it is automatically approved.

Minor changes that do not substantially affect properties can be approved by staff through the Minor Works process. These include side and rear yard fences, landscaping projects, new roof coverings, installation of mechanical equipment, foundation and masonry repairs, exterior lighting, historical identification signs, removal of artificial siding, replacement of exterior stairs, replacement of missing architectural elements when there is no change in design or materials from the original, and removal of accessory buildings not original to the site.

If you have questions, the Preservation Planner can help you. She can help interpret the City Code, suggest solutions to problems, explain your role in the review process, and assist you in filing an application. Call her at 399-2217 for assistance.

Am I required to restore my property or to get permission for general maintenance or interior work?

The local historic district does not require you to make any alterations or changes to your property. In addition, general maint enance work that does not involve a change in materials or design of the exterior is not reviewed, nor are interior alterations. Be aware that some work requires a City Building Permit from the Inspections Department. Call them at 399-2220 to determine if a permit is required.

What can I use as guidelines for changes?

The Preservation Planner can consult with you about changes you wish to make to your property. In your early planning stages, call her with questions, for advice, or for a copy of Guidelines for Property Improvements . These guidelines are based on the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings, a common-sense approach for enhancement of historic structures and districts. Staff will meet with you informally before you fill out your application or prior to the commission's review of it. Contact her for the dates of their next meetings, and the deadline(s) to submit an application.

Are there any benefits to me?

Yes. Owning property in a local historic district ensures that your neighborhood will be protected from unmanaged change. Because the review process requires public comment, neighboring property owners are given an opportunity to review and comment on alterations in their area before a decision is rendered.

In addition, if your property is "income producing" (rental or business), you may be eligible for a 20% federal and 20% state historic preservation tax credit. The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 (amended in 1986) provides for this federal tax credit for rehabilitation work done to eligible historic properties in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards. In addition, "non-income producing" properties (your home) may be eligible for a 30% state tax credit for approved work. See the attached information sheet on Historic Tax Credits .

There are also federal tax advantages in the form of charitable contribution deductions for owners who donate an historic preservation easement to a charitable organization. For detailed information on either program described above, call the Preservation Planner.

No funding is available through this department for persons interested in purchasing and renovating properties in a local historic district. However, assistance may be available through the City's Community Development Program .

What kind of technical help can I get in preserving my property?

The Planning Department provides professional staff support for the Historic Preservation Commission. Staff can make site consultations at your property and provide technical assistance in solving problems (such as persistently peeling paint). Also, the commission has a library of preservation resource materials you may consult or copy. Additionally, there is technical assistance available from the State Historic Preservation Office.

If my neighborhood is proposed for local historic district designation, do I have any say in whether it is established? What is the process?

Yes. Public comment is an important part of the designation process. By law, property owners in a proposed local historic district must be notified of the proposal so that they may speak in support or in opposition to the designation during the public hearings. Neighborhood meetings have been held (including both owners and renters) to discuss the impact of the designation, prior to the hearings for Old Wilson and West Nash, while the Broad-Kenan designation request was heard after a petition was submitted requesting designation with the majority of the property owners signing the petition.

Will the value of my property increase if it becomes part of a local historic district? How about my taxes?

Neighborhood change is affected by forces that occur independently of historic district designation. Economic and development pressures, shifting population trends, proportion of rental- to owner-occupied properties, crime, general appearance and perception also affect property values. Most local historic districts have experienced improvement in the appearance of the area and an increase in home-ownership, although it is not guaranteed. Currently, there is no special tax assessment for local historic districts; therefore taxes are not likely to increase more than comparable houses in the community. Property owners in local districts do not receive any direct financial benefit for owning property in the district.

Will historic district designation mean displacement or gentrification?

Changes in the residential make-up of a community are part of the constant evolution of a city. They are caused by a complex set of forces - including new development, ease of transportation, and changing urban lifestyles - NOT specifically by local historic district designation. Districts can be designated for a variety of reasons relating to the social, architectural and/or cultural significance of the area. Local historic district designation is designed to protect and enhance the existing character of a community, not to change it.

Where can I get more information?

In the City of Wilson , the Historic Preservation Commission is your principal point of contact for information and assistance. Call the Preservation Planner at 399-2217 or write to: Wilson Historic Preservation Commission, PO Box 10 , Wilson , NC 27894-0010 .

Where can I hold my Wedding and/or reception?

Many couples have selected landmarks or sites in our historic districts for their special events or photos. Interested parties should contact the property directly. The following sites have been used for such events: Wilson County Public Library, the Wilson Woman's Club, The Darden House (AKA sorority), Miss Betty's Bed & Breakfast, and numerous historic churches.