Zoning Overlays for Historic Districts


Does anyone have a good example of a zoning overlay for a historic district?

We have a large (5,000+ structure) local historic district (i.e. you need permits to change your windows, etc.) originally developed about 1900-1930 - a streetcar suburb.

We are starting to see increased property values, and redevelopment of vacant lots and crappy 60's buildings. These have all been done by PUD, because most of the town is suburban in character and the current zoning reflects that. We'd like to have a code that would allow buildings to come up to the sidewalks, mixed use, etc. by right, and remove some of the hassle for homeowners whose houses don't meet the modern setbacks, etc. There is design review of new construction, so appearance, etc. has been less of an issue than good urban design.

Also, parking standards tend to be a big issue.

So, how do people handle zoning in their historic districts?


What's your goal - preservation of historic structures or allowing appropriate new development in a historic district.

Historic ordinii usually allow flexibility to save the historic buildings and some flexibility to assure that the new construction is compatible in design. The most important part is to assure that the flexibility does not allow destruction of the historic buildings (allows larger buildings so the historic building is improperly altered) or inappropriate size of new construction (e.g. monster houses in an area of cottages because of flexible setbacks and parking). If there is a uniformity to the historic buildings, you could set FAR, height, design at that level, and allow flexibility the match the historic siting patterns.

If you can write down exactly what you want in narrative or outline form, it is easy to turn that into ordinance language. Just be sure you are aiming at what exactly what you want, not just reducing standards.

Also, make it as simple as you can. Preservation confuses both planners and developers.


We use a historic zoning designation that can allow you to set separate requirements for the area from the other zoning districts. In our case we do not impose any required setbacks but allow for design review to see that the character of the neighborhood is maintained through both setbacks and design. We do use a minimum requirement for construction that is not visible from a public right-of-way and therefore not subject to design review. This has worked really well for us and results in far fewer variances than seen in the older neighborhoods not designated as historic.
I suggest you look into a similar rezoning of the site rather than a simple overlay if you are seeing a good deal of new construction or want more control of land use. For a built out neighborhood with few zoning pressures, the overlay can be a good solution however.


lowlyplanner we have no district anywhere near the size you describe but our statutory controls can be found here. Part 6 has the heritage provisions. The only clause that may be unusual from your perspective is Clause 51 which includes our incentives. In short we will allow a heritage item to be used for any purpose (by consent) even if it is otherwise prohibited, provided conservation of the building is linked to the approval. Most parking and design controls can be set aside for any development at the discretion of the consent authority in NSW, and I think you would find in most instances where conservation of a heritage item was being secured, liberal non-conformances would be available.