Home Building in Fairfield County Historic Districts


Home Building in Fairfield County Historic Districts

Building a new custom home, an addition or undertaking a renovation project in Fairfield County can require advanced planning. Building in a historic district can add an additional layer of complication. Although some buildings have national historic designations, restrictions associated with building in town historic districts often come at the local level. This is the case in Fairfield County. Here’s a look at five area towns, and their permitting processes. Remember, each locality will have a different process, and the town government should be consulted before any work is started. Your Architect and Homebuilder can help you work through the entire process.

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Any home renovation, addition or teardown project in Greenwich will need to comply with all local regulations dictating general construction. When building in historic districts, a Certificate of Appropriateness is also required. The form itself is only one page, but it will need to be filed with the site plan, drawings of the building both before and after any change in scale, and photos of the current building and streetscape. The certificate is issued entirely at the discretion of the Greenwich Historic District Commission. In order to make any changes to a home’s exterior, you’ll need to have the certificate approved and on file. In addition, you may be able to get specific zoning easements from the town if you receive historic zone or Facade Easement status, in exchange for maintaining a historic building. It’s worth checking to see if your property qualifies.

The town of Westport is more specific with the powers granted to its Historic District Commission. Only portions of the exterior visible to the public are subject to the commission’s approval, and the commission stresses that minor changes and basic maintenance are not subject to approval or certification. For example, if you wanted to install a putting green in your backyard, which isn’t visible to the public, you could do so without approval. But if you wanted to replace the facade, you’d need to speak to the commission.

Local laws applying to the historic commission in Fairfield were actually appealed in 1998. The Fairfield Historic District Commission is instead mandated by the town charter to follow the general statutes of the state of Connecticut. This isn’t dissimilar from other towns in Fairfield County, but you should carefully examine the state statutes, as they’ll guide the commission in any decisions they make.

New Canaan
The fact that the New Canaan Historic District Commission has thirty-two pages of rules and regulations speaks volumes about the significance that they put on maintaining the integrity of their historic properties. The permitting and restriction process for renovating, demolishing for new construction, and building additions in New Canaan’s historic districts is very stringent. The commission strongly recommends “pre-application” meetings.

The town of Darien has no specific Historic District Commission, but it does have an Architectural Review Board that examines all plans to ensure they’re harmonious with the surrounding buildings. Essentially, the historic review process is incorporated into Darien’s zoning regulations, and you should act accordingly.

As you can see, the process varies from town to town. In order to ensure that you’re meeting the appropriate requirements, consult with an experienced professional at the first stage of the home building process.