Lancaster is fortunate to have a local historic district in which all exterior alterations to a building, visible from a street or public alley, are subject to review by the HARB. There are approximately 900 properties protected in this way within the local historic district.
The inventory of buildings that was undertaken as part of Lancaster's National Register nomination process tallied an additional 13,000 properties that also contribute to the City's architectural heritage and community character. To safeguard these resources as well, the Heritage Conservation District was created by City Council in 1999 to provide a review process for new construction and demolition visible from a public street. Creation of this conservation district provides for a thoughtful review of planned projects, with the overall character of a street or neighborhood in mind, in order to avoid inappropriate demolitions or incompatible new construction.
The Historical Commission is the body created by City Council to oversee the Heritage Conservation District. The Commission is made up of seven individuals appointed by City Council to review applications for new construction and demolition within the conservation district.
Unlike the HARB district, where all exterior alterations to properties must be reviewed, the Heritage Conservation District involves only the review and approval of new construction or demolition projects that will have an impact on the surrounding streetscape (that is, the appearance or character of the street or neighborhood).
Examples of the types of projects reviewed by the Historical Commission include:
- Constructing a new building or an addition to a building
- Adding a porch, balcony, or deck
- Demolishing an entire building, porch, balcony, deck, or dormer
*The Commission does NOT review maintenance or alterations such as changes in windows and doors, fences, masonry work, roofing, or siding.
While not every old building can be saved, one of the aims of the Heritage Conservation District is to encourage the preservation rather than demolition of historic structures. Each application for demolition will be reviewed on its individual merits.
When reviewing a proposal for demolition, the Historical Commission will consider the following issues:
- The architectural integrity and significance of the structure, and its contribution to the District
- The structure's contribution to the streetscape and character of the surrounding neighborhood
- The type and quality of any new construction being proposed in place of the structure
- Economic feasibility of reuse or rehabilitation of the structure (that is, the condition of the building compared to the costs for repair)
Proposals for New Construction
When reviewing applications for new construction, the Historical Commission will consider the following issues:
- The impact of the new structure upon the general historic and architectural character of the street, neighborhood, and district
- The general design, arrangement, texture, materials, and exterior architectural features of the proposed new building
- The relation between the new building's design and similar features found on buildings in the district
In its review of applications, the Commission is guided by the federal Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.
In addition, new construction projects are assessed according to a set of Design Standards.
How do I apply for a review by the Historical Commission?
To discuss your project, call and make an appointment to meet with a staff member of the City's Bureau of Housing and Structural Inspections at (717) 291-4724, between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, at City Hall. You will be advised by staff whether review by the Historical Commission is required and what documents you will need to provide.
If a review is required, you must complete a two-page application form for Proposed Demolition or Proposed New Construction. (Completed applications cannot be filed online.) For the application, you will have to describe your proposal in detail and submit current photographs of the property, as well as dimensional plans or drawings of the proposed changes. Call the Historic Preservation Specialist at 291-4726 with specific questions or to find out the monthly application deadlines. There is no application fee for a review by the Historical Commission.
Completed applications submitted by the deadline will be reviewed by the Historical Commission at their normally scheduled meeting, generally held on the third Monday of each month. The Commission will evaluate the application for appropriateness, and send its recommendation to City Council for action. City Council meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. City Council is responsible for issuing a "Certificate of Appropriateness" for the proposed project, which will permit you to obtain the required building permit (provided that your project also meets the requirements of zoning, engineering, or other city ordinances or regulations). Refer to the Heritage Conservation District Map (See Below) to determine whether your property is located within the district, or call the Historic Preservation Specialist at 291-4726.
If your property is NOT located within the Heritage Conservation district, your project may be subject to review by the HARB instead.
Click here to view a map of the Local Historic District and Heritage Conservation District.