Historic Winchester (HW) Zoning District - FAQ

What does and does not require a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA)?

  • All changes on the exterior of a property visible from public view that consist of a change to the materials, design, color or form. This includes exterior building elements (windows, roofing, porches, siding, etc.) as well as fencing, lighting fixtures, decorative elements, etc.
  • Public view shall mean from a public street, public way, or other public places as determined by the Zoning Administrator.
  • If a project consists of a repair or replacement of an existing improvement that does not change the materials, design, color or form, no Certificate of Appropriateness is required.

What can be administratively approved?

  • A Certificate of Appropriateness application can be submitted to the Zoning Administrator at any time for the following items:
    • Repainting of an existing building or structure.
    • The addition or deletion of awnings, canopies, storm windows, storm doors, gutters, and similar appurtenances.
    • Addition, alternation, or removal of signs.
    • Structural changes to a building which do not require a building permit (except for replacement of roof coverings, siding or windows and doors).
    • Furniture, fixtures, planters, umbrellas, fencing, and any other elements of outdoor dining areas that comply with the Old Town Winchester Outdoor Dining Guidelines as adopted by the Old Town Development Board.
    • Vending apparatuses permitted for outside vendors.

How long does the review and approval process take?

  • For BAR approval, the typical review process is about two weeks from the date of application submittal to the meeting of the board. Providing a lack of detail or insufficient information with the application can slow down the review process, and applications may be continued to multiple meetings until a complete or accurate application is submitted.
  • Current BAR Meeting Calendar
  • For administrative approvals, expect a review period of up to ten (10) days; however, most approvals are completed within 1-3 business days.
  • There is no fee except that applications to demolish a structure greater than 75 years old require a fee of $300 to cover public advertising costs.

What information is needed to supplement an application?

  • Completed Certificate of Appropriateness Application form
  • 10 copies of recent photographs of the property or structure to be altered (except for administrative approvals which require 3 copies)
  • See the 2nd page of the Certificate of Appropriateness Application for required supplementary documents list

What materials can I use?

  • The type of materials appropriate for a structure will depend on the age, architectural style, and neighborhood of the subject property. For additional information on the appropriate materials, please consult the Winchester Historic District Design Guidelines.
  • Typically, synthetic materials, such as vinyl, aluminum, etc., are not appropriate new or replacement materials in the HW District.

Are there financial incentives or programs available to assist with a proposed project?

  • Depending on the scope of your project, it may qualify for the City’s Substantial Rehabilitation Incentive. In order to qualify for the program the project must meet the following criteria:
    • Assessed value of residential structures must be increased by at least 40%, without increasing the total square footage by more than 15%.
    • Assessed value of commercial or industrial structures must be increased by at least 60%, without increasing the total square footage by more than 15%.
    • Applications for this program must be submitted before the issuance of a building permit to the Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office.
  • If the structure is a contributing structure in the National Historic District, an application may be made for state and/or federal tax credits from the Department of Historic Resources and Secretary of Interior. Please contact the regional DHR office for additional information at (540) 868-7029.

What if I am pursuing state and/or federal tax credits?

  • If you are utilizing state and/or federal tax credits for your historic project, then prior to the issuance of a building permit, documentation will need to be provided to the Zoning Administrator to detail the full scope of what materials, design, colors and form are approved as part of this process.
  • Any exterior alterations which are not covered in the tax credit review will need to be approved by the Board of Architectural Review or Zoning Administrator.

Do I need approval from Preservation of Historic Winchester (PHW) for my project?

  • Approval is only needed from the Board of Architectural Review for exterior changes. However, there are many properties within the Historic District which have restrictive covenants held by PHW. The inclusive list of such properties may be found on the PHW website.
  • PHW is a great resource for researching the history of your property, feel free to visit the PHW website for additional information. 

How do I apply for a Historic Winchester Building Plaque?