Part 4. Historic Preservation.
§ 160D-940. Legislative findings.
The heritage of our State is one of our most valued and important assets. The conservation and preservation of historic districts and landmarks stabilize and increase property values and strengthen the overall economy of the State. This Part authorizes local governments within their respective planning and development regulation jurisdictions and by means of listing, regulation, and acquisition to do the following:
(1) To safeguard the heritage of the city or county by preserving any district or landmark therein that embodies important elements of its culture, history, architectural history, or prehistory.
(2) To promote the use and conservation of such district or landmark for the education, pleasure, and enrichment of the residents of the city or county and the State as a whole. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-941. Historic preservation commission.
Before it may designate one or more landmarks or historic districts, a local government shall establish or designate a historic preservation commission in accordance with G.S. 160D-303. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-942. Powers of the historic preservation commission.
A preservation commission established pursuant to this Chapter may, within the planning and development regulation jurisdiction of the local government, do any of the following:
(1) Undertake an inventory of properties of historical, prehistorical, architectural, and/or cultural significance.
(2) Recommend to the governing board areas to be designated by ordinance as “Historic Districts” and individual structures, buildings, sites, areas, or objects to be designated by ordinance as “Landmarks.”
(3) Acquire by any lawful means the fee or any lesser included interest, including options to purchase, to properties within established districts or to any such properties designated as landmarks to hold, manage, preserve, restore, and improve such properties, and to exchange or dispose of the property by public or private sale, lease or otherwise, subject to covenants or other legally binding restrictions that will secure appropriate rights of public access and promote the preservation of the property.
(4) Restore, preserve, and operate historic properties.
(5) Recommend to the governing board that designation of any area as a historic district or part thereof, or designation of any building, structure, site, area, or object as a landmark, be revoked or removed for cause.
(6) Conduct an educational program regarding historic properties and districts within its jurisdiction.
(7) Cooperate with the State, federal, and local governments in pursuance of the purposes of this Part. The governing board or the commission, when authorized by the governing board, may contract with the State, or the United States of America, or any agency of either, or with any other organization provided the terms are not inconsistent with State or federal law.
(8) Enter, solely in performance of its official duties and only at reasonable times, upon private lands for examination or survey thereof. However, no member, employee, or agent of the commission may enter any private building or structure without the express consent of the owner or occupant thereof.
(9) Prepare and recommend the official adoption of a preservation element as part of the local government’s comprehensive plan.
(10) Review and act upon proposals for alterations, demolitions, or new construction within historic districts, or for the alteration or demolition of designated landmarks, pursuant to this Part.
(11) Negotiate at any time with the owner of a building, structure, site, area, or object for its acquisition or its preservation, when such action is reasonably necessary or appropriate. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-943. Appropriations.
A governing board is authorized to make appropriations to a historic preservation commission established pursuant to this Chapter in any amount determined necessary for the expenses of the operation of the commission and may make available any additional amounts necessary for the acquisition, restoration, preservation, operation, and management of historic buildings, structures, sites, areas, or objects designated as historic landmarks, or within designated historic districts, or of land on which such buildings or structures are located, or to which they may be removed. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-944. Designation of historic districts.
(a) Any local government may, as part of a zoning regulation adopted pursuant to Article 7 of this Chapter or as a development regulation enacted or amended pursuant to Article 6 of this Chapter, designate and from time to time amend one or more historic districts within the area subject to the regulation. Historic districts established pursuant to this Part shall consist of areas that are deemed to be of special significance in terms of their history, prehistory, architecture, or culture and to possess integrity of design, setting, materials, feeling, and association.
A development regulation may treat historic districts either as a separate use district classification or as districts that overlay other zoning districts. Where historic districts are designated as separate use districts, the zoning regulation may include as uses by right or as special uses those uses found by the preservation commission to have existed during the period sought to be restored or preserved or to be compatible with the restoration or preservation of the district.
(b) No historic district or districts shall be designated under subsection (a) of this section until all of the following occur:
(1) An investigation and report describing the significance of the buildings, structures, features, sites, or surroundings included in the proposed district and a description of the boundaries of the district have been prepared.
(2) The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, acting through the State Historic Preservation Officer or his or her designee, has made an analysis of and recommendations concerning the report and description of proposed boundaries. Failure of the Department to submit its written analysis and recommendations to the governing board within 30 calendar days after a written request for the analysis has been received by the Department relieves the governing board of any responsibility for awaiting the analysis, and the governing board may at any subsequent time take any necessary action to adopt or amend its zoning regulation.
(c) The governing board may also, in its discretion, refer the report and proposed boundaries under subsection (b) of this section to any local preservation commission or other interested body for its recommendations prior to taking action to amend the zoning regulation. With respect to any changes in the boundaries of a district, subsequent to its initial establishment, or the creation of additional districts within the jurisdiction, the investigative studies and reports required by subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of this section shall be prepared by the preservation commission and shall be referred to the planning board for its review and comment according to procedures set forth in the zoning regulation. Changes in the boundaries of an initial district or proposal for additional districts shall also be submitted to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (2) of subsection (b) of this section.
On receipt of these reports and recommendations, the local government may proceed in the same manner as would otherwise be required for the adoption or amendment of any appropriate zoning regulation.
(d) G.S. 160D-914 applies to zoning or other development regulations pertaining to historic districts, and the authority under that statute for the ordinance to regulate the location or screening of solar collectors may encompass requiring the use of plantings or other measures to ensure that the use of solar collectors is not incongruous with the special character of the district. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d); 2021-88, s. 1(e).)
§ 160D-945. Designation of landmarks.
Upon complying with G.S. 160D-946, the governing board may adopt and amend or repeal a regulation designating one or more historic landmarks. No property shall be recommended for designation as a historic landmark unless it is deemed and found by the preservation commission to be of special significance in terms of its historical, prehistorical, architectural, or cultural importance and to possess integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling, and/or association.
The regulation shall describe each property designated in the regulation, the name or names of the owner or owners of the property, those elements of the property that are integral to its historical, architectural, or prehistorical value, including the land area of the property so designated, and any other information the governing board deems necessary. For each building, structure, site, area, or object so designated as a historic landmark, the regulation shall require that the waiting period set forth in this Part be observed prior to its demolition. For each designated landmark, the regulation may also provide for a suitable sign on the property indicating that the property has been so designated. If the owner consents, the sign shall be placed upon the property. If the owner objects, the sign shall be placed on a nearby public right-of-way. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-946. Required landmark designation procedures.
As a guide for the identification and evaluation of landmarks, the preservation commission shall undertake, at the earliest possible time and consistent with the resources available to it, an inventory of properties of historical, architectural, prehistorical, and cultural significance within its jurisdiction. Such inventories and any additions or revisions thereof shall be submitted as expeditiously as possible to the Office of Archives and History. No regulation designating a historic building, structure, site, area, or object as a landmark nor any amendment thereto may be adopted, nor may any property be accepted or acquired by a preservation commission or the governing board, until all of the following procedural steps have been taken:
(1) The preservation commission shall (i) prepare and adopt rules of procedure and (ii) prepare and adopt principles and guidelines, not inconsistent with this Part, for altering, restoring, moving, or demolishing properties designated as landmarks.
(2) The preservation commission shall make or cause to be made an investigation and report on the historic, architectural, prehistorical, educational, or cultural significance of each building, structure, site, area, or object proposed for designation or acquisition. Such investigation or report shall be forwarded to the Office of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.
(3) The Department of Cultural Resources, acting through the State Historic Preservation Officer, shall, upon request of the department or at the initiative of the preservation commission, be given an opportunity to review and comment upon the substance and effect of the designation of any landmark pursuant to this Part. Any comments shall be provided in writing. If the Department does not submit its comments or recommendation in connection with any designation within 30 days following receipt by the Department of the investigation and report of the preservation commission, the commission and any governing board shall be relieved of any responsibility to consider such comments.
(4) The preservation commission and the governing board shall hold a joint legislative hearing or separate legislative hearings on the proposed regulation. Notice of the hearing shall be made as provided by G.S. 160D-601.
(5) Following the hearings, the governing board may adopt the regulation as proposed, adopt the regulation with any amendments it deems necessary, or reject the proposed regulation.
(6) Upon adoption of the regulation, the owners and occupants of each designated landmark shall be given written notice of such designation within a reasonable time. One copy of the regulation and all amendments thereto shall be filed by the preservation commission in the office of the register of deeds of the county in which the landmark or landmarks are located. In the case of any landmark property lying within the planning and development regulation jurisdiction of a city, a second copy of the regulation and all amendments thereto shall be kept on file in the office of the city or town clerk and be made available for public inspection at any reasonable time. A third copy of the regulation and any amendments shall be given to the local government building inspector. The fact that a building, structure, site, area, or object has been designated a landmark shall be clearly indicated on all tax maps maintained by the local government for such period as the designation remains in effect.
(7) Upon the adoption of the landmark regulation or any amendment thereto, it shall be the duty of the preservation commission to give notice thereof to the tax supervisor of the county in which the property is located. The designation and any recorded restrictions upon the property limiting its use for preservation purposes shall be considered by the tax supervisor in appraising it for tax purposes. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-947. Certificate of appropriateness required.
(a) Certificate Required. – After the designation of a landmark or a historic district, no exterior portion of any building or other structure, including masonry walls, fences, light fixtures, steps and pavement, or other appurtenant features, nor above-ground utility structure nor any type of outdoor advertising sign shall be erected, altered, restored, moved, or demolished on the landmark or within the district until after an application for a certificate of appropriateness as to exterior features has been submitted to and approved by the preservation commission. The local government shall require such a certificate to be issued by the commission prior to the issuance of a building permit granted for the purposes of constructing, altering, moving, or demolishing structures, which certificate may be issued subject to reasonable conditions necessary to carry out the purposes of this Part. A certificate of appropriateness is required whether or not a building or other permit is required.
For purposes of this Part, “exterior features” include the architectural style, general design, and general arrangement of the exterior of a building or other structure, including the kind and texture of the building material, the size and scale of the building, and the type and style of all windows, doors, light fixtures, signs, and other appurtenant fixtures. In the case of outdoor advertising signs, “exterior features” mean the style, material, size, and location of all such signs. Such “exterior features” may, in the discretion of the local governing board, include historic signs, color, and significant landscape, archaeological, and natural features of the area.
Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, the commission has no jurisdiction over interior arrangement. The commission shall take no action under this section except to prevent the construction, reconstruction, alteration, restoration, moving, or demolition of buildings, structures, appurtenant fixtures, outdoor advertising signs, or other significant features in the district that would be incongruous with the special character of the landmark or district. In making decisions on certificates of appropriateness, the commission shall apply the rules and standards adopted pursuant to subsection (c) of this section.
(b) Interior Spaces. – Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, jurisdiction of the commission over interior spaces is limited to specific interior features of architectural, artistic, or historical significance in publicly owned landmarks and of privately owned historic landmarks for which consent for interior review has been given by the owner. The consent of an owner for interior review binds future owners and/or successors in if the consent has been filed in the office of the register of deeds of the county in which the property is located and indexed according to the name of the owner of the property in the grantee and grantor indexes. The landmark designation shall specify the interior features to be reviewed and the specific nature of the commission’s jurisdiction over the interior.
(c) Rules and Standards. – Prior to any action to enforce a landmark or historic district regulation, the commission shall (i) prepare and adopt rules of procedure and (ii) prepare and adopt principles and standards not inconsistent with this Part to guide the commission in determining congruity with the special character of the landmark or district for new construction, alterations, additions, moving, and demolition. The landmark or historic district regulation may provide, subject to prior adoption by the preservation commission of detailed standards, for staff review and approval as an administrative decision of applications for a certificate of appropriateness for minor work or activity as defined by the regulation; provided, however, that no application for a certificate of appropriateness may be denied without formal action by the preservation commission. Other than these administrative decisions on minor works, decisions on certificates of appropriateness are quasi-judicial and shall follow the procedures of G.S. 160D-406.
(d) Time for Review. – All applications for certificates of appropriateness shall be reviewed and acted upon within a reasonable time, not to exceed 180 days from the date the application for a certificate of appropriateness is filed, as defined by the regulation or the commission’s rules of procedure. As part of its review procedure, the commission may view the premises and seek the advice of the Division of Archives and History or such other expert advice as it may deem necessary under the circumstances.
(e) Appeals. –
(1) Appeals of administrative decisions allowed by regulation may be made to the commission.
(2) All decisions of the commission in granting or denying a certificate of appropriateness may, if so provided in the regulation, be appealed to the board of adjustment in the nature of certiorari within times prescribed for appeals of administrative decisions in G.S. 160D-405(d). To the extent applicable, the provisions of G.S. 160D-1402 apply to appeals in the nature of certiorari to the board of adjustment.
(3) Appeals from the board of adjustment may be made pursuant to G.S. 160D-1402.
(4) If the regulation does not provide for an appeal to the board of adjustment, appeals of decisions on certificates of appropriateness may be made to the superior court as provided in G.S. 160D-1402.
(5) Petitions for judicial review shall be taken within times prescribed for appeal of quasi-judicial decisions in G.S. 160D-1405. Appeals in any such case shall be heard by the superior court of the county in which the local government is located.
(f) Public Buildings. – All of the provisions of this Part are hereby made applicable to construction, alteration, moving, and demolition by the State of North Carolina, its political subdivisions, agencies, and instrumentalities, provided, however, they do not apply to interiors of buildings or structures owned by the State of North Carolina. The State and its agencies may appeal to the North Carolina Historical Commission or any successor agency assuming its responsibilities under G.S. 121-12(a) from any decision of a local preservation commission. The North Carolina Historical Commission shall render its decision within 30 days from the date that the notice of appeal by the State is received by it. The current edition of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings shall be the sole principles and guidelines used in reviewing applications of the State for certificates of appropriateness. The decision of the North Carolina Historical Commission is final and binding upon both the State and the preservation commission. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, ss. 24, 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-948. Certain changes not prohibited.
Nothing in this Part shall be construed to prevent the ordinary maintenance or repair of any exterior architectural feature in a historic district or of a landmark that does not involve a change in design, material, or appearance thereof, nor to prevent the construction, reconstruction, alteration, restoration, moving, or demolition of any such feature which the building inspector or similar official shall certify is required by the public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition. Nothing in this Part shall be construed to prevent a property owner from making any use of his or her property that is not prohibited by other law. Nothing in this Part shall be construed to prevent the maintenance or, in the event of an emergency, the immediate restoration of any existing above-ground utility structure without approval by the preservation commission. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-949. Delay in demolition of landmarks and buildings within historic district.
(a) An application for a certificate of appropriateness authorizing the relocation, demolition, or destruction of a designated landmark or a building, structure, or site within the district may not be denied, except as provided in subsection (c) of this section. However, the effective date of such a certificate may be delayed for a period of up to 365 days from the date of approval. The maximum period of delay authorized by this section shall be reduced by the preservation commission where it finds that the owner would suffer extreme hardship or be permanently deprived of all beneficial use of or return from such property by virtue of the delay. During such period, the preservation commission shall negotiate with the owner and with any other parties in an effort to find a means of preserving the building or site. If the preservation commission finds that a building or site within a district has no special significance or value toward maintaining the character of the district, it shall waive all or part of such period and authorize earlier demolition or removal.
If the preservation commission or planning board has voted to recommend designation of a property as a landmark or designation of an area as a district, and final designation has not been made by the governing board, the demolition or destruction of any building, site, or structure located on the property of the proposed landmark or in the proposed district may be delayed by the preservation commission or planning board for a period of up to 180 days or until the governing board takes final action on the designation, whichever occurs first.
(b) The governing board may enact a regulation to prevent the demolition by neglect of any designated landmark or any building or structure within an established historic district. Such regulation shall provide appropriate safeguards to protect property owners from undue economic hardship.
(c) An application for a certificate of appropriateness authorizing the demolition or destruction of a building, site, or structure determined by the State Historic Preservation Officer as having statewide significance as defined in the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places may be denied except where the preservation commission finds that the owner would suffer extreme hardship or be permanently deprived of all beneficial use or return by virtue of the denial. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-950. Demolition by neglect to contributing structures outside local historic districts.
Notwithstanding G.S. 160D-949 or any other provision of law, the governing board may apply its demolition-by-neglect regulations to contributing structures located outside the local historic district within an adjacent central business district. The governing board may modify and revise its demolition-by-neglect regulations as necessary to implement this section and to further its intent. This section is applicable to any local government provided such local government (i) has designated portions of the central business district and its adjacent historic district as an Urban Progress Zone as defined in G.S. 143B-437.09 and (ii) is recognized by the State Historic Preservation Office and the U.S. Department of the Interior as a Certified Local Government in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended by 16 U.S.C. § 470, et seq., and the applicable federal regulations 36 C.F.R. Part 61, but is located in a county that has not received the same certification. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-951. Conflict with other laws.
Whenever any regulation adopted pursuant to this Part requires a longer waiting period or imposes other higher standards with respect to a designated historic landmark or district than are established under any other statute, charter provision, or regulation, this Part shall govern. Whenever the provisions of any other statute, charter provision, ordinance, or regulation require a longer waiting period or impose other higher standards than are established under this Part, such other statute, charter provision, ordinance, or regulation shall govern. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)