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This is an image of the St. James hotel and other historic buildings in downtown Red Wing, Minnesota's local historic district. Photo: Courtesy, CVB, Red Wing.

Working on the Past in Local Historic Districts

Q. I am confused about what kind of historic preservation activities may be carried out by local governments, as opposed to the state and federal government. Are local government activities fairly limited in nature?

A. No, local communities can carry out a wide variety of historic preservation activities, as you can see from this summary, below:

Conducting surveys and maintaining an inventory of historic and cultural resources.

Developing a preservation plan or preservation element of the local master plan.

Developing a local preservation ordinance.

Developing regulations, standards, guidelines, and procedures for complying with the ordinance (including specific design guidelines for a historic district).

Designating properties, landmarks, and districts under the local ordinance.

Reviewing proposals and applications for alterations, new construction, demolition, certificates of appropriateness, and design review.

Reviewing local zoning amendments, subdivision proposals, and development projects not specifically related to historic districts.

Reviewing federal undertakings under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act as an interested party or as an “in house expert” for a fellow agency in the same local government (e.g., local commission review of a state/federal highway project or a local Community Block Development Grant project).

For Certified Local Governments (CLGs), official, required authority for reviewing and commenting on National Register nominations, and recommendations to the SHPO.

Carrying out preservation, rehabilitation, and restoration projects; monitoring covenants and easements

Creating broad-based public education programs and heritage tourism activities, including brochures, walking tours, lectures, publications, marker programs, preservation award programs, etc.

Assuring public participation in various areas, including open meetings of the historic preservation commission or review board, public hearings on National Register nominations, and soliciting public reviews on preservation issues (e.g., in developing plans or ordinances).


The web page content is by Susan Henry Renaud, Preservation Initiatives Branch, Heritage Preservation Services Division, National Center for Cultural Resources, National Park Service.