May 6, 2014

Deciphering Preservation Jargon

Historic Fifth Ave in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

In recent weeks, we've shared a couple of toolkits breaking down the partners -- governmental and nonprofit -- that every budding preservationist needs to know (see part one and part two). But once you start getting involved with these groups, it quickly becomes clear: Preservation seems to have a language all its own.

With a few pointers, however, such as in our glossary of basic preservation terms, it gets easier to crack the preservation code, allowing you to show up at community meetings and preservation review board sessions sounding like a seasoned pro. Today's toolkit covers some of the "legalese" you're likely to encounter in the preservation world.

Affirmative Maintenance: Requirement in historic preservation ordinances that a building's structural components must be maintained.

Building Code: Law setting forth minimum standards for the construction and use of buildings to protect public health and safety.

Certificate of Appropriateness (COA): Certificate issued by a preservation commission to indicate its approval of an application to alter, demolish, move, or add on to a protected place.

Contributing Structure: Building or structure in historic district that generally has historic, architectural, cultural, or archaeological significance.

The "Historic Heart of San Diego" sign at the entrance to the Gaslamp Quarter

Demolition by Neglect: Process of allowing a building to deteriorate to the point where demolition is necessary to protect public health and safety.

Designation: Act of identifying historic structures and districts subject to regulation in historic preservation ordinances or other preservation laws.

Easement (Preservation or Conservation): Partial interest in property that can be transferred to a nonprofit organization or governmental entity by gift or sale to ensure the protection of a historic resource and/or land area in perpetuity.

Guidelines: Interpretative standards or criteria that are generally advisory in form.

Site Plan: Proposed plan for development submitted by a property owner for review by a planning board or other governmental entity that addresses issues such as the placement of structures, landscaping, pedestrian and vehicular access, lighting, signs, and other features.

Zoning: A set of laws regulating the use of land and buildings, which generally specify allowable uses, such as residential or commercial, and restrictions on development such as minimum lot sizes, set back requirements, maximum height and bulk, and so forth.

Sarah Heffern is the National Trust's social media strategist. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having first fallen for historic places in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @smheffern.


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