Preservation Ordinance and Historic Districts

 The Athens-Clarke County Historic Preservation Ordinance, passed by the City Council in 1986, is the legal vehicle by which the Athens Historic Preservation Commission can protect local historic districts and landmarks.  The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is made up of volunteer members that are appointed by the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission. The Ordinance provides for a design review process for exterior changes to designated properties, which takes place at monthly public meetings before the HPC.  This design review process is administered by the ACC Planning Department.

Athens-Clarke County presently has a total of 12 local historic districts and 44 individual local historic landmarks.

Q. How do I know if I live in a historic district?

The ACC Planning Department has a list of historic district maps to help you identify if you live or own property in a locally-designated historic district. Remember, locally-designated historic districts are different from districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Click here to learn more.

Q. How does the design review process work?

If you live or own property in a locally-designated historic district, you may need to go through the design review process for exterior changes to your property. In a nutshell, all proposals for exterior work must be first reviewed by HPC staff to determine whether a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) application is required.  Some changes, such as returning original details or minor work not visible from the public way, may be reviewed and approved administratively by HPC staff. If staff determines that the work must be reviewed by the HPC, you will need to fill out a COA application and your application will be added to the next available meeting agenda. The HPC bases its decisions of approval, denial, or table on ACC-adopted design guidelines, which cover everything from windows to infill construction. These guidelines are intended to help property owners get a better sense of what changes are considered appropriate and should be consulted before a COA application is submitted. At the public meeting, staff will give its report and recommendations, and the HPC will deliberate on the proposal based on the design guidelines and vote on a motion to approve, deny, or table. Approvals will be given a Certificate of Appropriateness.

Q. What about demolition?

A demolition proposal in a historic district follows the same design review process for exterior changes. The review process for a proposed demolition of a structure not in a local historic district is different. Once a demolition application is submitted, staff will determine whether the structure is eligible for a delay of demolition based on its age and significance.  If considered eligible, staff will forward this information to the respective ACC commissioner for the district where the structure is located. The commissioner has the authority to delay the demolition for up to 90 days. Visit the ACC website for more information.

Q. Who should I contact with questions?

General questions about local historic districts/landmarks, the ordinance, and the design review process should be directed to HPC staff. Feel free to contact ACHF with any questions as well.