Making Changes to Your Historic Building

Historic property owners in Local Historic Districts (LHD) share a responsibility for helping to maintain the distinctive qualities that allow Arlington’s historic districts to retain their character and integrity. In return, owners enjoy the advantages of increased property value and protection from inappropriate changes or new development.

Certificate of Appropriateness (CoA)

A Certificate of Appropriateness (CoA) is required for all proposed exterior alterations, new construction, and demolition within a LHD, with the exception of routine maintenance, repairs and replacements using the same materials, interior alterations and paint colors. The CoA process involves two public meetings: one with the Design Review Committee (DRC), which offers free technical and design advice to applicants, and one with the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB), which has the authority to approve or deny a CoA application.

The DRC is comprised of the architects and designers who serve on the HALRB. The committee offers free technical and design advice to applicants and their contractors to fine-tune and finalize CoA requests. The DRC does not vote on applications; it only informs the HALRB as to whether the applications are appropriate for the historic district. Depending on the scope of the project, some applications may need multiple visits to the DRC, while others may be addressed in just one meeting cycle. If the DRC recommends that an application is ready to be submitted to the full HALRB, then the HALRB reviews and renders a decision to approve or deny the CoA application.

How and when can I submit a CoA application?

CoA applications must be submitted online via the Permit Arlington system by 5:00 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month. Complete applications will be reviewed the following month. Appropriate supporting documents include photographs, site plans, construction drawings, and material samples and specifications.

Will I be allowed to make the changes outlined in my CoA request?

Over the past 10 years, more than 500 applications have been reviewed through the CoA process and only a handful of requests have been fully denied. Many CoA applications are approved in one review cycle, though some may require additional DRC meetings to resolve complex design issues.

One of the primary goals of the HALRB is to work closely with property owners and their design teams to achieve suitable designs that meet their current needs yet still respect the building’s historic character. The Historic Preservation Program staff and all of the HALRB members strive to help applicants achieve an appropriate design solution. However, as stated in the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance, owners do have the right to appeal a HALRB denial to the County Board.