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The first North Carolina general enabling statute allowing a local government to create a local preservation commission and establish a local historic district was passed in 1965. The law has been amended several times, but the statute in effect today is North Carolina General Statutes, 160A-400.1 through 14 and is included in Appendix 8.
The goal of establishing local historic districts zoning is to preserve the historic buildings and other significant resources that define and reflect elements of the City’s history. The historic resources found in local historic districts embody the traditional qualities and characteristics of a city or town, creating an attractive environment which is conducive to residential, commercial, and industrial uses as well as tourism and promotes pleasure, education and welfare of the residents of the community.
There are three designated Local Historic Districts in Wilson: Old Wilson, West Nash, and Broad-Kenan. Each follows the same boundaries as their respective National Register district based on architectural surveys.
Approx. 740 parcels are in the three districts and are thus under the jurisdiction of the Historic Preservation Commission [HPC]. Wilson also two additional National Register Historic Districts: East Wilson and Downtown/Tobacco Warehouse. These areas are currently not included in Wilson’s Local Historic District and are therefore not under the purview of the Historic Preservation Commission.
You can consult the Historic District Map to see whether your property lies within the boundaries of the Wilson Local Historic District. Maps are also available in the Planning Department located at City Hall. Please contact the Preservation Planner if you need additional assistance.
Beginning in 1979, surveys of the architectural and cultural resources of the City of Wilson were undertaken. These surveys resulted in a large number of Wilson properties being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is the federal government’s list of significant historic places in the United States. Many properties were also designated as National Historic Landmarks, the highest recognition that historic properties can receive in the United States. Wilson’s six landmark properties include: Branch Bank, Cherry Hotel, General Joshua Barnes House, Moses Rountree House, Davis-Whitehead-Harriss House, and Wilson County Courthouse.
Listing on the National Register or designation as a National Historic Landmark property is important for many reasons, including forming a justification and basis for the local historic district boundaries. Each National Register district has different histories and patterns of architectural development.
The Wilson Historic Preservation Ordinance allows for the purpose of the Wilson Local Historic District to be carried out by the Historic Preservation Commission.
The HPC is comprised of nine members who are city residents appointed by the City Council to serve a three year term and are eligible for reappointment for two full terms. Yearly elections determine a Chair and Vice-Chair among members.
The HPC does not require property owners to make changes to their buildings, rather the HPC reviews changes that are proposed by property owners. This assists in stewarding changes that enhance the historic assets that make a property and district significant. The local historic district protects assets by establishing a review process known as a Certificate of Appropriateness [COA] to ensure that proposed work is compatible with the nature of the property and the character of the surrounding properties in the historic district.
Plans for exterior alterations, new construction, demolitions, and alterations to landscape features within the Wilson Local Historic District must be reviewed and approved by the HPC or Preservation Planner prior to any work beginning.
The only exception to the requirements for the COA is for ordinary maintenance and repair of any of the existing features of a structure or building that does not involve a change in design, materials or the outward appearance.
Applications for proposed work are filed with the Preservation Planner in the Planning Department located at City Hall. Applications are reviewed by the Preservation Planner and, if deemed complete, will be docketed for that month’s meeting. Minor alterations that do not substantially affect properties may be approved administratively by the Preservation Planner at their discretion. An application is still required for administrative approval.
Digital submissions are currently being accepted on a trial basis. Applicants can either email their completed application packet in .pdf format or use DropBox to email@example.com. An email confirmation will be sent to you. If you do not receive a confirmation within 24 hours please contact the Preservation Planner.
Incomplete applications will not be heard by the HPC and will be returned to the applicant. Applicants are encouraged to work with the Preservation Planner prior to submitting their application. HPC meetings are held on the first Wednesday of the month. Meetings are held in the City Hall Council Chamber, beginning at 5:30pm.
The process of review and approval by the HPC ensures that the historic character of Wilson’s Local Historic Districts are maintained. Increasingly, research shows that local historic districts stabilize and strengthen local economies by ensuring that alterations or new additions to the district are compatible with an area’s identified historic resources and character.
The Wilson Historic Preservation Commission has adopted the Historic Property Owners Handbook for Local Historic Districts and Local Landmarks. This document and guidelines are based on the Secretary of the Interior Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings.
The central focus is to provide guidance to those who intend to restore, rehabilitate and make changes to structures within the local historic districts. Further, the handbook provides valuable information and resources for anyone who is interested and/or wishes to participate in the preservation of Wilson’s architectural heritage.
The Preservation Planner can consult with applicants about proposed changes to a property.
The Planning Department is currently in the process of updating our historic surveys. Upon completion, those updated documents will be available here.