Are Conservation Districts Historic Preservation?

APA Alabama Chapter


Friday, October 6, 2017
8 a.m. - 9 a.m. CDT

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Are Conservation Districts Historic Preservation?

Session Synopsis:  Are Conservation Districts Historic Preservation?

Many of our municipalities create locally regulated historic districts as a tool to preserve historic downtowns and neighborhood assets.  These districts require a city to establish a local historic preservation commission to advise the city council on local district designations and enforce regulations known as design review standards.  These standards are guidelines applied consistently to each property and project with the goal to preserve original materials and design.  The vast majority of these districts are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The regulations ensure properties retain their character and National Register status.

Many cities are looking for a way to protect neighborhood character with less regulatory control on changes to buildings as required for local historic district regulation.  In some cases, it is an economic-driven decision since a given historic neighborhood's residents may have modest homes and incomes.  Or the district may include many mid-century modern properties where issues such as development pattern and scale of housing may be more significant than the metal window sashes and exterior cladding. Many historic district residents long for a buffer zone to minimize impact on neighboring buildings not included in the district.

Can conservation districts be used as a historic preservation tool?  Do we need another level of designation where preservation districts are not feasible either politically or economically?  Who decides whether a district receives conservation or preservation district status?


Session will address the regulatory process for local historic districts, examples of conservation district programs in other states, and includes a case study using zoning designation to protect a development pattern, and a conversation on best approach for conservation districts in Alabama.


Mary Shell

Experience State of Alabama Preservation Planner Company NameState of Alabama Dates Employed1991 – Present Employment Duration26 yrs Manage Certified Local Government program and grants. Manage statewide historic preservation planning program. Member of Alabama Communities of Excellence and Your Town Alabama boards. SHPO Preservation Planner Company NameSHPO Dates Employed1989 – 1991 Employment Duration2 ... Read More

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Mac Martin,