Kentucky Heritage Council - (Banner Imagery) - click to go to homepage.


What is a Certified Local Government (CLG)?  In a nutshell, a Certified Local Government (CLG) is any local government - be it a town, city, municipality, or county - that has an established historic preservation commission and has been certified by the State Historic Preservation Officer as having met all federal and state standards. The CLG must sign an agreement with the Commonwealth of Kentucky, agreeing to develop and administer its local preservation program so that it complies with national and state preservation goals and standards.

What are the basic requirements for participation in the CLG program?

  • A local preservation ordinance.
  • A preservation review commission.
  • A system for survey and inventory of historic properties.
  • Public involvement in the local preservation program, including nominations to the National Register.

What is the process for enacting a local preservation ordinance? Kentucky does not have a detailed statutory framework for local historic preservation ordinances. However, Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) Chapter 100 does contain several sources of authorization for historic districting.  Prior to adoption of a local preservation ordinance, citizens should contact their local city/county attorney for additional guidance.  The SPHO can also provide information on other communities that have successfully adopted a local preservation ordinance. In general, an ordinance establishing specific historic overlay zone will contain (1) an accurate description of the boundaries of the district; (2) a description of the historical, architectural, cultural, aesthetic, natural, or other distinctive characteristics of the district that are to be preserved or conserved; (3) a delegation of responsibility for the administration of overlay regulations to an appropriate entity of government; and (4) the standards, guidelines, or criteria that shall govern development within the district to preserve, conserve, or protect the historical, architectural, cultural, aesthetic, or other distinctive characteristics of the district.

What must be included in the local preservation ordinance for CLG participation?

  • Statement of purpose.
  • Definitions.
  • Specific membership and duties of the local historic preservation review commission.
  • Designation procedures for local landmarks and districts
  • Criteria for designation of local landmarks and districts.
  • Provisions for public hearings in accordance with KRS 61.800-61.850 and public notification in the designation process for local landmarks and districts in accordance with KRS Chapter 424
    Mandatory review of alterations, demolitions or new construction to listed landmarks and within listed historic districts.
  • Specific guidelines to be used by the local review body.
  • Specific time frames for review and for consideration of alternatives.
  • Procedures for appeal from an adverse decision.

What are the minimum CLG requirements for the formation of a historic preservation commission?

  • At least five members, all of whom have demonstrated interest in historic preservation.
  • At least two of these shall be preservation-related professional members (this includes the professions of architecture, history, archaeology, architectural history, planning or related disciplines such as urban planning, American studies, American civilization, cultural geography or cultural anthropology).  Professionals in a related discipline must be involved on a regular basis with historic preservation activities as part of their work in that discipline.  Exceptions to this requirement are made on a case-by-case basis in accordance with state and federal requirements.
  • At least two-year terms of office which are staggered.
  • Rules of procedure established and made public
    At least four meetings per year, held at regular intervals, in a public place, advertised in advance and open to the public.
  • Review decisions made in a public forum, applicants notified of meetings and advised of decisions.
  • Written minutes of actions of the commission available for public inspection.
  • Written annual report of commission activities, cases, decisions, special projects and qualifications of the members, etc., kept on file and available for public inspection.
  • Vacancies on the commission filled within sixty (60) days.

What duties must the historic preservation commission perform to meet CLG requirements?

  • Continuing surveys of cultural resources in the community according to guidelines established by the Kentucky Heritage Council.
  • Recommendations for designation of local landmarks and historic districts to the appropriate local governing body.
  • Establish written guidelines for the preservation of designated local landmarks and historic districts.
  • Approve applications for permits (Certificates of Appropriateness) for alterations, demolitions, new construction or relocation affecting listed landmarks or properties located within historic districts.
  • Act in an advisory role to other officials and departments of local government regarding the protection of local cultural resources.
  • Act as a liaison on behalf of the local government to individuals and organizations concerned with historic preservation.
  • Work toward the continuing education of citizens within the CLG’s jurisdiction regarding historic preservation issues and concerns.
  • Attend at least one informational or educational meeting per year, approved by the SHPO, pertaining to the work and functions of the commission or to historic preservation.
  • Review all proposed National Register nominations for properties within the boundaries of the CLG’s jurisdiction.

What is the process used by historic preservation commissions to preserve the historic integrity of landmarks and properties in historic districts?  When a property owner wishes to alter the exterior of a building, demolish a building, or engage in new construction or relocation of structures, the property owner must make an application for a permit (also referred to as a Certificate of Appropriateness or COA). Some “normal maintenance” or “routine repairs” that do not involve a change in design, material, or appearance may be excluded by an ordinance or involve only routine approval by a commission. Check with your local historic preservation commission to see how they handle routine maintenance and repairs.  Work performed without a COA can result in fines and/or removal or reversal of unauthorized alterations. There are provisions for appeal from an unfavorable decision and provisions regarding hardship cases. However, experienced preservation commissions generally seek to provide suggestions or give alternatives whenever possible to avoid an outright denial of a COA. 

What steps does my city/county take to become a CLG?  After passage of a preservation ordinance and creation of a preservation commission, submit a CLG application to the Historic Preservation Division. Any local government (city, county, or joint city-county) may apply. Your city/county may require passage of an ordinance or resolution prior to becoming a CLG.  Check with your city or county attorney. Applications are reviewed and subject to approval by the SHPO and the National Park Service.

Is there a population requirement for participation in the CLG program?  No, participation is open to local governments of any size.

Can someone help us with the CLG application or provide technical assistance once we are certified?  Yes, contact Vicki Birenberg, State Certified Local Government Program and Planning Coordinator, at (502) 564-7005, ext. 126 or

How can I find other CLGs in the state?  Go to the National Park Service Web site at Link - You are now leaving the .gov domain.

Local Historic Preservation Ordinances

What is a historic district?  It is a geographically defined area with a concentration of older buildings, structures, sites, spaces and/or objects unified by past events, physical development, or design.

We are in a National Register District. Aren’t we already protected?  No. The National Register listing is primarily honorary. While buildings in a National Register district may be eligible for tax incentives and grants, the National Register only gives you some protection from federally funded projects or federally licensed activities.  Additionally, National Register district boundaries often meander across the street into the middle of blocks, or go down the center of a block or down the middle of a street, giving no continuity to neighborhood.

How is a local historic district created? A local historic district is a zoning overlay that is created by an amendment to the official zoning map. Provisions for protecting the historic character of an area are generally found in Kentucky Revised Statutes, Chapter 100, and specifically KRS 100.201 (2) and KRS 100.203 (1) (e) and (g). Local governments can protect the visual and historic character through the establishment of an overlay district. This enables local governments not only to regulate land use within specific districts, but also to impose restrictions on aesthetic elements within the districts. An overlay district represents a second level of oversight imposed on property before development or alteration within that district may begin. Overlay ordinances must not conflict with the underlying zoning regulation or prohibit uses permitted by underlying zoning regulations.   

Do we have any historic buildings? Most jurisdictions identify historic properties and potential historic properties through a survey process. The best place to start is to look at the National Register survey in Kentucky. Many county seats in Kentucky have been surveyed, although some of the surveys are dated. Communities then use the survey or update the survey to arrive at a list of designated historic structures within that district (sometimes referred to as a designation report).  The designation report identifies structures as either contributing or noncontributing to the historic integrity of the district. This label will in turn dictate the level of review that the local preservation commission will apply. Contributing properties may enjoy full protection, while noncontributing properties may have less stringent protection, depending largely on whether the requested changes to properties are “compatible with the character” of the district.

The designation report listed my building as a “non-contributing” structure, so why does the historic preservation commission still need to review my property?  There are two reasons. First, the commission recognizes that your property is non-contributing and subject to less stringent requirements, but they still want to ensure that any changes are compatible with the district and do not detract from its historic integrity.  Second, as difficult as it may seem at the present, your property may achieve historic significance in the future.  

Why do we need a local historic district if my neighbors and I already maintain the historic character of our properties? In this era of growth and increased mobility, new owners may move into an area and not respect the character and buildings of the historic district. Petitions and public outcry may stop some inappropriate development, but the case-by-case fights are costly, in terms of time and money, for developers and the community. The overlay zone sets up a predictable framework in which decisions about community appearance and historic properties can be made.

If my building is included in the local historic district, do I have to make my building look more historic?  In a local historic district only proposed changes to exterior architectural features are reviewed. Preservation ordinances ask that any new work fit in with the existing historic buildings and not destroy more of the historic materials and features.  There is no requirement for owners to remove later additions or put back missing features.

If my building is included in the local historic district, will I have to fix up my building? Preservation ordinances usually contain no requirement for owners to repair their building; however, be mindful that there are city housing and building codes used to ensure that structures are safe and livable. Generally, preservation ordinances allow for ordinary maintenance and repairs without getting approval from the local historic preservation commission. Some communities have adopted a demolition by neglect provision that allows the local government to step in and prevent deterioration if an owner is deliberately letting a building deteriorate so that they can tear it down. However, many communities choose simply to meet with the landowner to suggest improvements and request that the building inspector mothball the structure until changes are made.

If my building is included in the local historic district, will I be prevented from making changes to my building?  Historic preservation ordinances do not prevent change.  However, changes must meet design criteria and guidelines for the local historic district.  The goal is to make changes that are appropriate and fit in with the district.

What are design criteria or design guidelines? The local districts must adopt standards, guidelines or criteria to be followed that can be set out in the ordinance or included by reference in order that property owners are fully apprised as to what changes are appropriate for local historic districts. Usually communities as a base standard adopt the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings.  For more information, see External Link - You are now leaving the .gov domain.

Communities then enlist the services of an expert (either voluntary or paid) and tailor the standards to their own community.  Through text and illustrations, the guidelines show acceptable alterations, additions, and new construction. The guidelines, like the designation and the ordinance, are only enacted after public hearings and appropriate local legislative approval. How restrictive the guidelines will be depends on the desires of the community. 

If I want to renovate a structure that is located in a local historic district, what must I do?  Find out the design review standards for your district.  Draw up your plans. If you are required to file a building permit, the building inspector generally refers you to the local historic preservation commission to complete an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness or forwards the application to the commission for you. If you are not required to file a building permit, you must still complete an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness and submit it to the local preservation commission. 

Can a new building or addition be constructed in a local historic district?  Yes, as long as the plans are consistent with design guidelines for new construction. New construction should be compatible with the existing district, but should also be distinct and not an imitation of historic structures.

Can buildings be demolished in a local historic district?  A building may be torn down if it   poses a threat to the health and safety of residents as determined by a code enforcement official. For buildings that are in sound condition, preservation ordinances may have restrictions ranging from demolition delays to elaborate multipart tests. In general, if the structure is not contributing to the local historic district then demolition will probably be allowed.  If the property is contributing and residential, the issue may then be whether the property can be put to a reasonable beneficial use without the approval of the demolition. If no, then the demolition will probably be allowed.  If yes, then the next issue is whether the applicant will suffer economic hardship by denying the demolition. If the property is contributing and is income producing, the issue may be whether the owner can obtain a reasonable return from the building. Reasonable return may not be the highest and best use of the property. If no, then the demolition will be allowed. If yes, then the test is whether the applicant will suffer economic hardship by denying the demolition.

Must I get permission to paint my house?  Some historic districts in Kentucky require a paint color review, but most do not. Each community must decide whether or not they will review paint color.

Will the ordinance require that I open my house for tours?  Absolutely not.

Will the ordinance require approval for interior changes to my house?  No. Preservation ordinances do not require review of interior changes to historic structures or new buildings. Please note that interior changes may still be subject to local code enforcement review.

Will a local historic district change how I use my property?  Local historic district overlays do not change the underlying zoning. For example if you were previously restricted to residential use, the historic district overlay won’t change that restriction.  The design review process only guides exterior appearance of the use.

Will a local historic district restrict the sale of my property, and will it affect the value of my property?  A local historic district presents no restrictions to the conveyance of your property.  As to the value of your property, no one can predict the future, but studies from around the country suggest that local designations have increased property values or at least stabilized them.  Studies regarding economic values of preservation can be obtained from the SHPO. 


Last Updated 7/21/2015