Maintaining Community Character: Town Designated Local Historic Districts
One of the most powerful tools for protecting historic buildings and areas and for preserving community character is to create local historic districts in accordance with Connecticut statutes and standards set by the Connecticut Historical Commission. Many people wrongly assume that the federal government protects historic resources and that listing in the National Register of Historic places is sufficient to prevent demolition. The strongest laws for historic preservation are local laws, not federal.
The first local historic district was established in Charleston, South Carolina in 1931. Today, more than 2300 communities across the country have followed Charleston’s example. Guilford has established two such districts; within them any changes to the exterior appearance visible from a street or other public right-of-way require approval by the Guilford Historic District Commission (HDC). Town road improvements and other capital projects within the boundaries of local Historic Districts may be referred to the HDC for review and recommendations as well.
Guilford’s two Historic Districts:
Town Center local Historic District (A) contains 156 buildings.
Whitfield Street local Historic District (B) contains 70 buildings.
Connecticut General Statute Sec. 8-2j can aid historic preservation. A town’s Planning and Zoning Commission may establish as Village Districts those areas of distinctive character, landscape or historic value that are specifically identified in the Plan of Conservation and Development. No approval is required by property owners; approval is only required by the PZC. Village Districts provide for compatibility of any changes with existing character, scale, space patterns, signage, massing, architectural detail and sight lines of vistas from within the district. An Architectural Review Board, or a certified architect, landscape architect or planner contracted by the PZC as the Village District consultant, as well as the Design Review Committee, reviews each application for addition or change, with respect to its harmonious relationship to the neighborhood. Guilford currently has one village district: the Church Street Village District.