Certified Local Government
What is a Certified Local Government (CLG)?
The Certified Local Government (CLG) program represents a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) and local governments (Arkansas cities and counties) to preserve historic resources at the local level.
An Arkansas city or county is eligible to participate in the CLG program if it has appointed a Historic District Commission (HDC) and has passed a local preservation ordinance designating one or more local historic districts, according to applicable state law.
Twenty Arkansas cities currently participate in the Certified Local Government program. They are Batesville, Benton, Blytheville, Conway, Dumas, El Dorado, Eureka Springs, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Helena-West Helena, Hot Springs, Little Rock, Morrilton, North Little Rock, Osceola, Pine Bluff, Rogers, Russellville, Texarkana, and Van Buren.
What does a Historic District Commission (HDC) do?
A Historic District Commission is a board comprised of 5-9 citizens appointed by the mayor or chief elected official of a locality whose goals are to:
- Encourage historic preservation
- Provide technical assistance to citizens
- Promote a partnership of local, state and federal government
- Administer appropriate state and local legislation for the designation and protection of historic properties
- Approve applications for Certificates of Appropriateness (COAs) in designated historic district(s)
- Maintain a survey and inventory of local historic properties
- Participate in nominating properties/areas to the National Register of Historic Places
What are the advantages of becoming a Certified Local Government?
A local preservation ordinance helps to preserve the visual characteristics of a historic neighborhood while providing a framework for redevelopment by stabilizing a neighborhood and increasing property values. By joining the CLG program, an eligible city or county gains access to an enhanced partnership with AHPP and NPS, including training, technical support, and grant assistance.
By law, at least 10 percent of the AHPP's annual federal appropriation must be distributed in the form of CLG grants. Furthermore, CLG status provides a process for identifying, evaluating and recognizing historic property. The CLG program provides a means for planning and considering historic preservation in land use, public improvement and development decisions. CLG status is a tool for educating citizens, government officials, and community groups about the advantages of historic preservation.
CLG grants have often been used as seed money to attract funding from local governments or other sources. Also, in many cases, the products generated by CLG grants have provided credibility to a fledgling local historic preservation program. Beyond being just a source of funds, the CLG program has helped institutionalize historic preservation and give it legitimacy as a function of local government.
As a member of the CLG program, the city or county's Historic District Commission also gains access to training opportunities designed especially for local preservation commissions. AHPP typically offers two of these training workshops each year. Additionally, CLG communities are granted a special role in the process of nominating properties to the National Register of Historic Places.
How does my city/county pass a local preservation ordinance?
The chief elected official appoints a Historic District Commission (HDC) that meets specific guidelines laid out in the Arkansas Historic Districts Act (ASA 14-172-201 et seq.) The HDC investigates and reports on the historic significance of a proposed district and prepares a written report on its findings. Copies must be provided to the AHPP and local the planning commission for comment. Each group has sixty days to give the HDC its recommendations. Failure to make recommendations is taken as approval.
The HDC next must hold a public hearing on the formation of the district. Please contact AHPP or your city/county attorney's office for specifics on holding a public hearing.
The HDC submits a final report to the governing body, including its recommendations and a proposed preservation ordinance within sixty days of the public hearing:
The governing body then reviews the report and acts. It can either:
1. Accept the report of the commission and enact a local preservation ordinance.
2. Return the report to the commission for revision, requiring a further report to the governing body within ninety days.
3. Reject the report of the commission and discharge the commission.
Click to see a diagram of the process associated with passing a local preservation ordinance.
Once the report is accepted, the chief elected official of the area must request certification from the AHPP. This written, formal request must include:
A written assurance that the local government will fulfill all requirements specified in the AHPP's CLG Procedures Manual
A copy of the local preservation ordinance
A list and accompanying maps of the area designated a historic district
Resumes for each of the members of the historic preservation commission
Additionally, a series of public hearings must be held. See a diagram of the process. Please contact the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program at 501-324-9880 for assistance or with specific questions.
Once the application to become a CLG is submitted, how long does it take to become certified?
The AHPP will respond to the request for certification within sixty (60) days of receipt of an adequately documented request for certification. If approved by the SHPO, the AHPP will then forward the application to the Secretary of the Interior, who has fifteen (15) working days to respond. If no comment is received, the local government will be considered certified.
What should be included in a Historic District Ordinance?
To participate in the CLG program, a local preservation ordinance must include, at a minimum:
- A statement of purpose substantially similar to the language in the purpose clause of the Arkansas Historic Districts Act (ASA 14-172-et.seq.)
- A clear delineation of designated district boundaries
- Definitions of appropriate terms used in the ordinance, i.e., alteration, area of influence, ordinary maintenance, etc.
- Specific membership and duties of the historic district commission
- Mandatory review of alterations, demolitions or new construction within the established district.
- Reference to specific guidelines, substantially similar to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation,
to be used by the Commission in reviewing applications for Certificates of Appropriateness
- Provision for procedural due process including public hearings and public notification.
- Specific time frames for reviews and consideration of alternatives
- Provisions for noncompliance
Who can be a member of a Historic District Commission?
Members of the local HDC must meet certain qualifications. These include:
- Members must be electors of the city or county for which they serve.
- Members may NOT be salaried employees nor elected officials for the city or county for which they serve.
- Some demonstrated interest, competence or knowledge in historic preservation
- To the extent available in the community, members should be preservation-related professionals.
What if my community lacks preservation professionals?
In this case, the local government must demonstrate that it has made a reasonable effort to fill these positions with a preservation-related professional. When reviewing a matter in which a discipline is not represented, the commission must consult with a professional who has expertise in that profession. For example - If an archeological issue arises before the commission and the commission lacks an archeologist, the Arkansas Archeological Survey could be contacted.
How does the Historic District Commission protect the unique character of the Historic District?
In a locally designated historic district, most exterior work must first receive a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) before any changes are made to a property. The local historic district commission will review all additions, demolitions, new construction, signage, streetscape features, and rehabilitation and restoration projects. Some local preservation ordinances also call for the HDC to review changes in color. Several HDCs in Arkansas are also charged by ordinance with reviewing cases of severe deterioration or "demolition by neglect".
Certificates of Appropriateness allow an HDC to ensure that changes maintain the historic integrity of the area. Work done without a COA can result in fines and/or the removal or elimination of the unauthorized alteration.
Before beginning work on any site in a locally designated historic district, a property owner should first obtain an application for a COA from the local HDC. Your application will be placed on the agenda of an upcoming HDC meeting. Your city or county will not issue a work permit in the historic district until the proposed work has been approved by the HDC, so be sure to plan for this extra step before beginning your project.
What standards or guidelines do Historic District Commissions use when considering proposed changes?
Upon the passage of a preservation ordinance, an HDC should work closely with property owners, residents, and merchants within the designated historic district(s) to develop a set of design guidelines customized especially for the needs of each particular district. An HDC should review its guidelines each year to ensure they remain relevant and sensitive to the needs of each historic district.
To participate in the CLG program, AHPP requires that any guidelines adopted by an HDC be, at a minimum, consistent with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. These 10 broad principles of preservation are widely recognized throughout the United States as a best practice model for reviewing design changes in historic districts. (Often, a new HDC will initially adopt the Secretary's Standards to review changes while it develops its first set of customized design guidelines.)
Is any work exempted from review by the Historic District Commission?
Yes. In most cities, "ordinary maintenance" (work that does not involve a change in color, materials, or appearance) does not usually require commission review. In some cities, work that is not visible from the public right of way is also exempted from review. Additionally, all HDCs are prohibited from considering any interior arrangements or how a property is used.
Your city may have other regulations relating to work in a historic district (permits, zoning, codes, etc.) Always be sure to check with your local planning department or building official before beginning work.
What can I do to help establish a historic district in my area?
To begin with, you will need to gain the support of both your elected officials and the citizens of your potential historic district. Take time to speak to the citizens, hold a public meeting, and explain the advantages of historic districts.
Remember, a historic district is established to benefit the public. The public is always welcome at meetings and should be encouraged to attend and participate.
But I thought I was already in a historic district?
Your property or neighborhood may already be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but this designation is only honorary; it does not protect an area's historic character. Only a local preservation ordinance can ensure that subsequent changes to a historic district will be compatible with the unique look and feel of its historic architecture.
What if not every member of the proposed historic district wants to participate?
An important part of Arkansas's culture is a proud tradition of private property rights. This aspect of our culture is valid and must be respected. However, many of the benefits of a local historic district (like enhanced property values or an aesthetically pleasing neighborhood) only arise en masse, when everyone participates.
The Arkansas Historic Districts Act does allow for historic districts to be designated without the consent of every property owner, but it remains the responsibility of the preservation community to build public support for a proposed historic district and to be available to answer any questions regarding private property rights.
For what activities can CLG grant money be used?
CLG pass-through grants can be used for a wide variety of local historic preservation projects. CLG grants can also be used to assist cities and counties that want to join the program. Only cities and counties can apply for CLG grants.
Some examples of what Arkansas CLG grant money has been used for include:
- Training for historic district commissioners and their staff
- Staff support for a historic district commission
- Architectural surveys of historic areas
- Nominations to the National Register of Historic Places
- Development of design guidelines for use by historic preservation commissions in their review of new construction and alterations to properties
within historic districts
- Archeological surveys and excavations
- Preservation plans for the protection of local historic resources
- Interpretive signage for historic sites
- Educational materials for property owners on preservation practices
- Brick-and-mortar restoration work on historic properties
Do CLG grants require a matching contribution?
No. CLG grants have frequently been awarded without a match. However, because CLG grants are competitive, grants that have a match show a greater commitment from the community and therefore stand a better chance of being awarded.