Tools for Commissions

Local governments in North Carolina--counties and municipalities--can choose to take advantage of state enabling legislation (General Statutes 160D-940 through 160D-951, 160D-102, 160D-303, 160D-404(c), 406, 105-278, and 160D-307) that allows them to create historic preservation commissions and to designate local historic districts and landmarks.

What Local Designation IS and IS NOT: Local designation is conferred by a local governing board following a recommendation by its preservation commission. Commissions only exist where they have been explicitly created by the county or city, and only commissions created pursuant to state law can exercise design review over properties designated by the local governing board. However, commissions around the state are known by a few different names: historic resources and preservation commissions work with both districts and landmarks while district commissions work solely with districts, and landmark commissions work solely with landmarks.

Local designation should not be confused with listing in the National Register of Historic Places, which is a federal program administered by the state. Although some properties may carry both types of designation, the National Register and local designation are totally separate programs with different requirements and benefits. Also, local commissions should not be confused with other local historical organizations such as historical societies or museum groups.

We have compiled a selection of model documents, reports, handbooks, and legislation that will help these endeavors.

Tab/Accordion Items

Handbook for Historic Preservation Commissions in North Carolina (PDF). Notice: The HPO’s policy for submitting Local Designation Reports supersedes the guidance outlined on p. 49 of the Handbook for Historic Preservation Commissions in North Carolina. Please refer to the HPO’s current policy when preparing local designation reports for landmarks or local historic districts.

North Carolina Enabling Legislation for the Creation of Historic Preservation Commissions by Counties and Municipalities
G.S. 160D-940 through 160D-951, 160D-102, 160D-303, 160D-404(c), 105-278, and 160D-307

Please reference the North Carolina General Assembly General Statutes Web site at Complete texts (by full chapters, not sections) of all General Statutes may be downloaded in HTML, PDF, and RTF formats at that site.

Open a printable version of this chart.

Local Historic Preservation Commission State Enabling Legislation Crossover Chart (NC GS 160A > NC GS 160D)

Adapted by the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office with permission from the University of North Carolina - School of Government’s Chapter 160D: A New Land Use Law for North Carolina (

(*Please see School of Government website for additional materials on NC GS 160D:…)


Chapter 160A


Chapter 160D


Historic Districts and Landmark


§ 160A-400.1.

Legislative findings.


§ 160A-400.2.

Exercise of powers by counties as well as cities.


§ 160A-400.3.

Character of historic district defined.


§ 160A-400.4.

Designation of historic districts


§ 160A-400.5.

Designation of landmarks; adoption of an ordinance; criteria for designation


§ 160A-400.6.

Required landmark designation procedure.


§ 160A-400.7.

Historic Preservation Commission.

160D-303; 941

§ 160A-400.8.

Powers of the Historic Preservation Commission.


§ 160A-400.9.

Certificate of appropriateness required.

160D-102; 947

§ 160A-400.10.

Conflict with other laws


§ 160A-400.11.



§ 160A-400.12.



§ 160A-400.13.

Certain changes not prohibited.


§ 160A-400.14.

Delay in demolition of landmarks and buildings within historic district.


§ 160A-400.15.

Demolition by neglect to contributing structures outside local historic districts.


§ 160A-362

Extraterritorial representation on boards.


*Additional legislation (no change)



§ 105-278. Historic Properties (tax deferment individual landmarks)





NC GS 160D-947(d) allows local preservation commissions to “… seek the advice of the Division of Archives and History or such other expert advice as it may deem necessary under the circumstances,” when reviewing Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) applications.

Staff shall submit the request for technical guidance on behalf of the commission or at the commission’s request. We recommend before an official request is submitted to the HPO by staff, the commission should officially table a COA application, make a motion and vote to invoke NC GS 160D-947(d) to request technical advice from the HPO. When the commission tables a COA, staff and the commission should share with the applicant or their representative that the HPO is allowed thirty days under the state statutes to review the commission’s request from the date the official request is received by the Local Government Coordinator.

The North Carolina Administrative Code (07 NCAC 04R .0502) further explains that requests for technical guidance from the commission to the HPO must be submitted in writing and sent by mail or email to the HPO’s Local Government Coordinator: “Comments in response to the request will be conveyed in writing to the commission requesting the review.” The state statutes allow HPO staff thirty days to review the COA application and offer comment or technical guidance.

Written guidance from HPO staff will be conveyed via email to commission staff. It is the responsibility of staff to share HPO staff comments with the commission. Guidance provided by the HPO is non-binding and should not be considered an official ruling by our office or a determination on how the commission should decide a COA case.

HPO staff are always available to offer technical assistance. However, when the commission is requesting technical guidance from the HPO regarding a specific COA application, please follow the above outlined procedures.