County Board Revises Standards for Requesting Historic Preservation O

Published on December 19, 2017

The Arlington County Board today approved revised standards aimed at formalizing the process for requesting Historic Preservation Overlay studies.

The Board voted unanimously to amend the Zoning Ordinance Historic Preservation Overlay District to include the revised standards.

"These changes to the process and criterion for requesting an historic district overlay study strikes the right balance between keeping the process accessible and ensuring that potentially time-consuming applications for multi-property designation requests are submitted with more community support, including from affected property owners," County Board Chair Jay Fisette said.

The changes respond to concerns raised regarding the informal process that existed for requesting that historic preservation overlay district studies be initiated. The goal is to improve the process without unnecessarily burdening the public's ability to request historic preservation overlay district status for historic properties.

The amendment will change the timeframe required to inform a property owner of an historic preservation overlay district study request, and tie such notification to the acceptance of a completed application. The amendment would create a uniform and predictable process for such requests.

Previously, any person (i.e. — a single individual) could file a designation request for any number of properties, without any background materials or forms required. Some requests, particularly for large acreages or many properties, were both time-consuming to process and have not always been submitted in consultation with affected property owners.

The amendment makes the following changes:

  • A request for local historic district designation must be made on a County application form.

  • The application form will require specific documentation, including narratives pertaining to physical descriptions and historical significance, plus photographs and bibliographical references.

  • The application also will establish a multi-step internal review process prior to scheduling a public hearing with the HALRB.

  • For multi-property designation requests, the new amendment will limit who may apply for or request a historic preservation overlay district to: civic associations, home owners associations, or condominium boards for properties within their own boundaries; or petitioners with documented support of 25 percent of properties in a defined area. One property would count as one vote (so if four trustees owned a property, only one vote counts).

  • For individual properties, historic preservation overlay requests will be limited to Arlington residents or property owners.

  • The HALRB, Arlington Public Schools (APS), and the County Board retain authority to initiate studies and recommend designations as they can do now.

  • After adoption of the amendment, staff will finalize the application form. This form will be available on the County website and via paper copy in the Historic Preservation Program's office, located in the County's Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.


Public process


The Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board held a public hearing on the proposed amendment on October 18, 2017, and heard the item again at its November 15, 2017 hearing, where it unanimously supported the proposed Zoning Ordinance amendment. The Zoning Ordinance Committee of the Planning Commission reviewed the Zoning Ordinance amendment on November 14, 2017. The Planning Commission held a public hearing on December 4, 2017, and voted unanimously to support the draft ordinance.

To read the staff report , scroll to Item No. 15 on the agenda for the Tuesday, Dec. 19 Recessed County Board Meeting. View frequently asked questions about designating properties historic in Arlington.