The Definitions & Responsibilities of our Local Historic District Commission and our Village District Act under Connecticut’s General Statutes
Historic District Commission – Ridgefield
The Ridgefield Historic District Commission (HDC) is governed by Connecticut State Statutes (Sections 7-147a – 147k) as well as local ordinances; and has the responsibility of preserving the historic character of the homes and properties of Ridgefield’s two historic districts and one historic property.
We strive to maintain the historic context and architectural integrity, while balancing the needs of modern home ownership. In addition to our historic buildings, we also govern (permit) approvals of new construction, fences, walkways, lighting, signs, driveways, parking areas and other exterior features. However, the Historic District Commission does not have jurisdiction over the use of a building or property, paint colors, interiors, landscaping, or features that cannot be viewed from a public street, way or place.
Procedures: A property owner who wishes to construct, repair, alter or expand a house or other “fixed items” on a property, must apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness by filling out an application and bringing the proposal before the Commission at a regularly held meeting (the HDC typically meets the third Thursday of each month at Town Hall in the small conference room downstairs). Applications are available at the receptionists’ office at the Town Hall.
Daniel J. O’Brien, Chair
Eric Pashley, Vice Chair
Joseph L. Gasperino
Rhys L. Moore
Briggs L. Tobin
James Hancock, Alternate
Sean O’Kane, Alternate
How to Reach Us:
Please call Chairman Dan O’Brien at 203- 716-6140 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Village District Act of the Connecticut General Statutes
The Village Districts Act, passed by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1998, is an aggressive tool to help municipalities protect and preserve their community character and historic development patterns. The law allows towns to designate village districts as a way of protecting sections of towns that have distinctive character, landscape and historic structures. Within these areas, the town zoning commission may adopt regulations governing such matters as the design and placement of buildings and maintenance of public views. These regulations also “encourage conversion and preservation of existing buildings and sites in a manner that maintains the historic, natural and community character of the district.” They provide “that proposed buildings or modifications to existing buildings be harmoniously related their surroundings, to the terrain and to the use, scale and architecture of existing buildings in the vicinity that have a functional or visual relationship to the proposed building or modification.” The scale, proportions, massing, size, proportion and roof treatments should be compatible with the area and the “removal or disruption of historic traditional or significant structures or architectural elements shall be minimized.” In addition to design, the arrangement and orientation of any proposed new construction should be compatible with the immediate neighborhood. All applications for substantial reconstruction and new construction shall be subject to review and comment by an architect or architectural firm contracted by the commission. The bill applies to rural, urban and suburban communities, which can exhibit ‘village’ characteristics.
Listed below are five steps towns should follow in the process of designating Village Districts:
1. Educate the residents and support for the designation of each area as a Village District.
2. Inventory the structures and landscape and settings of each district, and identify problems.
3. Establish standards of design unique to each area and in common to all, including public landscaping, sidewalks, lighting, street furniture, pedestrian, and bike and vehicle circulation.
4. Set up timing and funding schedules and adopt the needed zoning regulations.
5. Monitor progress and effects of the local zoning and revise as needed.
Connecticut Preservation Programs
In this section we review the different programs available for listing as an historic property, the type of protection each provides and the restrictions they carry. Designating a property as architecturally and historically significant can encourage preservation, promote public awareness, and protect a sense of place and character within our communities.
A general overview of the Connecticut programs available:
National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark is the highest level of designation available. Properties given this foremost form of recognition are deemed significant to all Americans because of their exceptional values or qualities, which help illustrate or interpret the heritage of the United States. The National Historic Landmark program identifies, designates, recognizes and protects buildings, structures, sites and objects of national significance.
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic buildings and sites worthy of preservation. Listing on the Register indicates that a property is significant because of its architecture or its association with important persons, events or cultural events. Listing does not restrict what a property owner may do with the property unless the owner is using federal assistance.
State Register of Historic Places
The State Register of Historic Places is the official listing of those sites important to the historical development of Connecticut. Listing on the State Register does not restrict the rights of the private property owner and offers limited protection
State Historic Resource Inventory
The State Historic Resource Inventory identifies and evaluates historic, architectural, archaeological, cultural and industrial resources. The surveys which serve as the basis for most other designations is also a useful tool for municipal officials, local planners, preservationist, property owners and researchers in helping them make sound preservation and development decisions. There are no restrictions associated with the Historic Resources Inventory.
Local Historic Districts/Properties
Local Historic Districts/Properties offers the most protection for significant architectural buildings in the State of Connecticut. The State General Statutes allow municipalities to establish historic districts and historic properties for which exterior architectural changes are reviewed by a local preservation commission. This allows towns, which have Local Historic Districts/Properties to ensure that alterations, additions, or demolitions are in keeping and consistent with the special character of the designated area.
Scenic Road Designation
Rural and scenic roads are a valuable and essential part of Connecticut’s notable landscape. Designating roads, both state and local, has proven to be an effective method in preserving and protecting these vital by-ways from alterations that would alter and diminish their appearance including widening, rerouting, destruction of stonewalls and the removal of mature trees.
HABS AND HAER The Historic American Building Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) identify and document important architectural, engineering and industrial sites throughout the United States including Connecticut. Organized and managed by the Federal Government, each building or property recorded features a complete set of measured drawings, large-format photographs and a written history.
The Historic American Landscapes Survey, like HABS/HAER, is a record of significant American landscapes documented by the Federal Government. This archive of landscapes was created to help us better understand our rich ethnic and cultural heritage
Archaeological sites are the physical remains of previous human activity. Wherever people have lived or worked the land and water may contain evidence of their lives. These sites contain valuable information about the material culture and lives of the people who occupied the land before us and these clues and important artifacts are often invisible from the surface. It is important to document and analyze sites to learn about our community’s heritage.