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Obtaining a Local Historic District Designation for Elizabeth

HENF's Immediate Focus is to establish Elizabeth as a Local Historic District

The HENF Board has recently been reconstituted and re-energized with an immediate focus: carrying forward the recent efforts of an all-volunteer group of neighbors to establish Elizabeth as a Local Historic District (LHD).  A LHD designation would help maintain and preserve the historic residential character of our neighborhood while providing for balanced, well-crafted and appropriately scaled businesses, healthcare facilities, and educational institutions.

Using donations from our community members, the HENF Board has commissioned Susan V. Mayer, a protégé of well-known Charlotte historian (and Plaza Midwood neighbor) Tom Hanchett, to survey our historic buildings, a critical first step in the LHD application process.  Following the completion of the survey and findings contained in Susan's final report, we plan to propose district boundaries and begin community outreach and engagement efforts before finalizing our application, including providing an educational program for the community to learn more about a LHD designation and retaining a neutral third-party to conduct a formal survey and assessment of the Elizabeth community’s support for a LHD designation.


Since the LHD effort began nearly three years ago, the pressures on our neighborhood have only increased. We see two magnificent century-old homes on East Seventh Street (including the former home to Royal Gardens) under threat for demolition, and the recent demolition of historic homes in the 1800 block of East Seventh Street to make way for a new development, which has strong potential to dramatically alter the existing height and development precedent along Elizabeth's Seventh Street corridor.  However, the threat is not limited to new businesses or commercial properties as large and equally out of scale homes have been built on Clement Avenue, Greenway Avenue, East Fifth Street, Bay Street, and several others, viscerally impacting the pedestrian scale and charm of these streets and our collective sense of space.

The Gold Line streetcar, now running on Elizabeth Avenue and Hawthorne Lane, will likely hasten higher density and vertical development as city council seeks to maximize the benefits accruing from its investment in public transportation.  The recently adoption of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) and 2040 Comprehensive Plan are adding to the development pressures our neighborhood is facing.  A LHD designation remains the single most powerful tool available to protect our historic community from this multitude of external forces and to guide future development in a way that is more consistent with the architecture and design of the historical residential and commercial buildings that are the fabric of the Elizabeth neighborhood.


HENF believes there is sufficient support of a LHD designation by the residents of Elizabeth to allow us to achieve our goal.  An informal survey of Elizabeth homeowners completed in 2020 showed that 75% of those surveyed were in favor of a LHD designation.  As we continue our community outreach for this project, the feedback from residents continues to be positive and indicates substantial support of a LHD designation.  HENF is working diligently to engage all stakeholders to ensure awareness of the beneficial protections that a LHD designation would provide - protections already provided to Plaza Midwood, Dilworth, Wesley Heights, Hermitage Court and other nearby communities which have previously obtained and enjoy a LHD designation.  The HENF Board encourages you to connect with us directly and share your perspective. We look forward to hearing from the community and updating you as our progress continues.

  • What is the Charlotte Historic District Commission and who serves on it?
    The Charlotte Historic District Commission (HDC) was created in 1976 in connection with the redevelopment of the Fourth Ward. Seeing the impact that the redevelopment was having on the Fourth Ward and its historic character, City Council recognized the need and benefit to providing some regulatory protection for the preservation of historic neighborhoods like the Fourth Ward. As a result, the City Council adopted a Historic District Ordinance to provide for the designation of Local Historic Districts (LHDs) as well as a governmental commission (the HDC) to oversee and administer any changes within the LHDs that could potentially damage or destroy the historical character of the LHDs. The HDC is currently made up of 13 members appointed by the Mayor and City Council, 8 of which must own property, live or own businesses within the current LHDs. The remaining members are appointed at large. All of the members are required to have some demonstrable expertise or experience in the areas of neighborhood preservation, architecture, planning, history or other areas directly related to the HDC's mission: " ensure the preservation of any areas, structures, site and objects that are significant elements of the cultural, social, economic, political, or architectural history of Charlotte and to safeguard the heritage of the city through the preservation and conservation of historical areas for the education, pleasure, and enhancement of the residents of the City."
  • What are some examples of major renovations or projects requiring full Historic District Commission approval? What are some examples of minor renovations or projects requiring only Administrative Approval?
    Examples of "major renovations or projects" that are typically subject to review and approval by the full Historic District Commission include: New construction, large additions, demolition, front/side porch enclosures, substitute siding, large accessory buildings, major tree removal, significant landscape features, front yard parking, and the painting of unpainted masonry. Examples of "minor renovations or projects" that typically only require Administrative Approval include: fencing, signage, windows and doors, rear yard improvements, retaining walls, driveways, walkways, and some less substantial tree removal.
  • Can I still renovate my home in a Local Historic District?
    Yes, you can still renovate homes within a Local Historic District (LHD). The renovations may be subject to certain limitations, restrictions or conditions, such as approval by the Historic District Commission (HDC) in the form of a Certificate of Appropriateness issued by the HDC after HDC's review of the property owner's application and any other supporting documentation that may be required in connection with the application, e.g., building plans or drawings; however, the required supporting documentation varies depending on the type and scope of the proposed renovations. While there may be some limitations, restrictions or conditions to a renovation, Local Historic Districts are not subject to blanket prohibitions against renovating homes or other properties located within the LHD.
  • Will it be harder and/or more expensive to renovate my home in a Local Historic District?
    Possibly. Any exterior renovations in a Local Historic District (LHD) require review and approval of the proposed renovation plans by the Historic District Commission (HDC), adding an additional layer of review and approval to the standard building permit process; thus, potentially increasing the time and cost involved in a project. The level and scope of review required by the HDC depends on the type and scope of the proposed renovation. Smaller renovations to the home or renovations involving exterior ancillary improvements (e.g., accessory buildings, driveways and landscaping or site features) typically only require Administrative Approval (i.e., review and approval by the HDC staff), which typically only takes 5-10 business days after the HDC office receives the completed application and fee. More extensive renovations, or proposed renovations that would not conform to the Historic District Design Standards, require review and approval by the full HDC, which can take 30 or more days due to the administrative proceedings and process involved in obtaining the full HDC approval. If the renovation requires full HDC review and approval, there is more likely to be additional time and costs involved due to the more extensive review and approval process required. That being said, it should be noted that roughly 2/3 of all Charlotte LHD projects submitted to the HDC's office for review and approval are only subject to Administrative Approval, so, in general, there is minimal additional time or cost involved for most renovations within Charlotte's LHDs.
  • So, if the rule is that ANY exterior changes to a property within a Local Historic District are subject to approval by the Historic District Commission, would I have to get approval for every single thing I want or need to do outside of my house? Can I fix a leaky roof, or do I have to go through the application process and wait for HDC approval?
    No, not every single exterior change is subject to Historic District Commission (HDC) approval. You can repair a leaky roof without any HDC involvement. Ordinary repair and maintenance projects do not require any HDC review or approval, provided, that the repair and/or maintenance does not result in any substantial changes in design or material. For example, if you "repair" your leaky roof by replacing the existing shingled roof with a new metal roof, HDC review and approval would be required. Because the line is not always clear on what would be considered "ordinary repair and maintenance" or what would be considered "a substantial change in design or material", if there is any question as to whether HDC review and approval would be required, HDC advises property owners contact the HDC staff priorr to commencing any work to confirm if HDC review and approval is required for the proposed work.
  • Elizabeth is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic District. Doesn’t that already provide protection for Elizabeth's historical architectural and archaeological features?
    No. While Elizabeth is listed as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, the National Register doesn’t provide for the preservation or protection of historical architectural or archaeological features unless a building or property receives assistance or is funded by the Federal Government. It merely provides a source of pride to the owner or community that has property listed in the National Register, and, from a practical standpoint, it provides certain tax credits related to the renovation or rehabilitation of qualifying income-producing (commercial) properties that are listed in the National Register.
  • What would Elizabeth residents gain by having a Local Historic District designation?
    The right to protect the neighborhood and input in the design review process. A strong tool to manage development, including out-of-scale and out-of-place structures. Ability to prevent large block, high-density apartments from being built within the historic district. Community Stabilization. Recent studies suggest that Local Historic Districts nationwide: Have higher resale values and increased property values than comparable properties and neighborhoods outside of designated historic districts; Insulate property values from wild swings in the housing market; and Lead to increased levels of home ownership and longer residence by both homeowners and renters.
  • Then City of Charlotte recently adopted a Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) - how could it impact a Local Historic District designation?
    Charlotte City Council adopted the UDO on August 22. 2022 and become effective on June 1, 2023. Regulations from eight different growth and development ordinances have been combined into a single set of regulations. It will be the primary tool to implement Charlotte’s plans and policies through development regulations. Additionally, some regulations, like the Zoning Ordinance, have been updated to respond to an increased demand for regulations that reflect today’s best practices. The UDO will work in concert with the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan which was adopted in June 2021 and became effective on July 1, 2022. The City’s Historic District Guidelines will not supersede any regulations or policies implemented by the UDO, so to the extent the UDO and the Historic District Guidelines conflict, the UDO will be deemed to control. However, the zoning “overlay” that would be provided by a LHD designation would require an extra layer of protection to the LHD by requiring any new development adhere to the Local Historic District guidelines to ensure the character and scale of future structures that may be permitted by the UDO are consistent with the historical character of the community.
  • What about the streetcar extension running through Elizabeth? How could that impact development and a Local Historic District designation?
    The first major part of the UDO, the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Districts along the light rail were recently adopted by City Council. The purpose of TOD Districts is to encourage and enable the development of moderate to high-density, compact, mixed-use urban neighborhoods near transit stations. Therefore, with the streetcar extension running through the Elizabeth neighborhood, there is potential for high density, large-scale development projects within the areas of Elizabeth located near transit locations which could drastically change the landscape of the neighborhood. Since the TOD Districts are part of the UDO, the TOD will ultimately control what type of development may be permitted along the streetcar extension areas. While a LHD designation and the zoning overlay provided by that designation would not necessarily prevent any such development, it would help to ensure that any such development conforms in scale, size, architecture and design to historical character and integrity of the community.
  • What is the process for a neighborhood obtaining a Local Historic District designation?
    Explore feasibility. Complete application (includes updating of existing property-by-property analysis). Determine proposed boundaries of the district (based on the property-by-property survey). Submit application to Historic District Commission (HDC) & State Historic Preservation Office for review. Apply for Rezoning to add a LHD zoning overlay, which is voted on by City Council (the rezoning application requires a fee and a petition signed by 51% or more of the property owners within the proposed boundaries).
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