Certified Local Government

The Certified Local Government (CLG) program represents a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) and local governments (Arkansas cities and counties) to preserve historic resources at the local level.

An Arkansas city or county is eligible to participate in the CLG program if it has appointed a Historic District Commission (HDC) and has passed a local preservation ordinance designating one or more local historic districts, according to applicable state law.

21 Arkansas cities currently participate in the Certified Local Government program. They are Batesville, Benton, Blytheville, Conway, DumasEl DoradoEureka Springs, Fairfield Bay,  FayettevilleFort Smith, Helena-West HelenaHot SpringsLittle Rock, Morrilton, North Little RockOsceolaPine BluffRogersRussellvilleTexarkana, and Van Buren.

Frequently Asked Questions

A Historic District Commission (HDC) is a board comprised of 5-9 citizens appointed by the mayor or chief elected official of a locality whose goals are to:

  • Encourage historic preservation
  • Provide technical assistance to citizens
  • Promote a partnership of local, state and federal government
  • Administer appropriate state and local legislation for the designation and protection of historic properties
  • Approve applications for Certificates of Appropriateness (COAs) in designated historic district(s)
  • Maintain a survey and inventory of local historic properties
  • Participate in nominating properties/areas to the National Register of Historic Places

A local preservation ordinance helps to preserve the visual characteristics of a historic neighborhood while providing a framework for redevelopment by stabilizing a neighborhood and increasing property values. By joining the CLG program, an eligible city or county gains access to an enhanced partnership with AHPP and NPS, including training, technical support, and grant assistance.

By law, at least 10 percent of the AHPP's annual federal appropriation must be distributed in the form of CLG grants. Furthermore, CLG status provides a process for identifying, evaluating and recognizing historic property. The CLG program provides a means for planning and considering historic preservation in land use, public improvement and development decisions. CLG status is a tool for educating citizens, government officials, and community groups about the advantages of historic preservation.

CLG grants have often been used as seed money to attract funding from local governments or other sources. Also, in many cases, the products generated by CLG grants have provided credibility to a fledgling local historic preservation program. Beyond being just a source of funds, the CLG program has helped institutionalize historic preservation and give it legitimacy as a function of local government.

As a member of the CLG program, the city or county's Historic District Commission also gains access to training opportunities designed especially for local preservation commissions. AHPP typically offers two of these training workshops each year. Additionally, CLG communities are granted a special role in the process of nominating properties to the National Register of Historic Places.

The AHPP will respond to the request for certification within sixty (60) days of receipt of an adequately documented request for certification. If approved by the SHPO, the AHPP will then forward the application to the Secretary of the Interior, who has fifteen (15) working days to respond. If no comment is received, the local government will be considered certified.

In a locally designated historic district, most exterior work must first receive a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) before any changes are made to a property. The local historic district commission will review all additions, demolitions, new construction, signage, streetscape features, and rehabilitation and restoration projects. Some local preservation ordinances also call for the HDC to review changes in color. Several HDCs in Arkansas are also charged by ordinance with reviewing cases of severe deterioration or "demolition by neglect".

Certificates of Appropriateness allow an HDC to ensure that changes maintain the historic integrity of the area. Work done without a COA can result in fines and/or the removal or elimination of the unauthorized alteration.

Before beginning work on any site in a locally designated historic district, a property owner should first obtain an application for a COA from the local HDC. Your application will be placed on the agenda of an upcoming HDC meeting. Your city or county will not issue a work permit in the historic district until the proposed work has been approved by the HDC, so be sure to plan for this extra step before beginning your project.

Only changes to the exterior of a property. This includes windows, doors, walls, roofs, porches, yards, sidewalks, storefronts, signs, etc. Some HDCs also regulate paint colors. However, HDCs cannot consider interior arrangements, zoning, or how a building is used. Additionally, work that does not involve a change in design, materials, or appearance is considered "ordinary maintenance" and typically is not subject to HDC review.

When the HDC approves your proposed work, you will receive a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA). Pick up an application at your city hall. You still must observe all other city building codes and zoning requirements.

Yes. In most cities, "ordinary maintenance" (work that does not involve a change in color, materials, or appearance) does not usually require commission review. In some cities, work that is not visible from the public right of way is also exempted from review. Additionally, all HDCs are prohibited from considering any interior arrangements or how a property is used.

Your city may have other regulations relating to work in a historic district (permits, zoning, codes, etc.) Always be sure to check with your local planning department or building official before beginning work.

To begin with, you will need to gain the support of both your elected officials and the citizens of your potential historic district. Take time to speak to the citizens, hold a public meeting, and explain the advantages of historic districts.

Remember, a historic district is established to benefit the public. The public is always welcome at meetings and should be encouraged to attend and participate.

Upon the passage of a preservation ordinance, an HDC should work closely with property owners, residents, and merchants within the designated historic district(s) to develop a set of design guidelines customized especially for the needs of each particular district. An HDC should review its guidelines each year to ensure they remain relevant and sensitive to the needs of each historic district.

To participate in the CLG program, AHPP requires that any guidelines adopted by an HDC be, at a minimum, consistent with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. These 10 broad principles of preservation are widely recognized throughout the United States as a best practice model for reviewing design changes in historic districts. (Often, a new HDC will initially adopt the Secretary's Standards to review changes while it develops its first set of customized design guidelines.)

Cities participating in the CLG program are required to use standards substantially similar to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation when evaluating proposed changes. Many commissions also develop design guidelines that are specific to the architectural character of a particular historic district. Contact your city hall for details.

The chief elected official appoints a Historic District Commission (HDC) that meets specific guidelines laid out in the Arkansas Historic Districts Act (ACA 14-172-201 et seq) The HDC investigates and reports on the historic significance of a proposed district and prepares a written report on its findings. Copies must be provided to the AHPP and local the planning commission for comment. Each group has sixty days to give the HDC its recommendations. Failure to make recommendations is taken as approval.

The HDC next must hold a public hearing on the formation of the district. Please contact AHPP or your city/county attorney's office for specifics on holding a public hearing.

The HDC submits a final report to the governing body, including its recommendations and a proposed preservation ordinance within sixty days of the public hearing.

The governing body then reviews the report and acts. It can either:

  • Accept the report of the commission and enact a local preservation ordinance. 
  • Return the report to the commission for revision, requiring a further report to the governing body within ninety days. 
  • Reject the report of the commission and discharge the commission. 

Please contact the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program at 501-324-9880 for assistance or with specific questions.

To participate in the CLG program, a local preservation ordinance must include, at a minimum:

  • A statement of purpose substantially similar to the language in the purpose clause of the Arkansas Historic Districts Act (ASA 14-172-et.seq.)
  • A clear delineation of designated district boundaries
  • Definitions of appropriate terms used in the ordinance, i.e., alteration, area of influence, ordinary maintenance, etc.
  • Specific membership and duties of the historic district commission
  • Mandatory review of alterations, demolitions or new construction within the established district.
  • Reference to specific guidelines, substantially similar to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation, to be used by the Commission in reviewing applications for Certificates of Appropriateness
  • Provision for procedural due process including public hearings and public notification.
  • Specific time frames for reviews and consideration of alternatives
  • Provisions for noncompliance
The Arkansas Historic Districts Act (ACA 14-172-201 et seq) allows a city to create a historic district commission. But the commission's design review authority can only come from the city's local preservation ordinance.
Most of Arkansas' local historic districts are overlaid on the boundaries of a National Register Historic District. However, National Register designation alone does not place any protections on historic properties. Design review by a local historic district commission is the best tool an Arkansas city has to preserve the characteristic architecture of its historic neighborhoods. A number of studies have also shown that locally protected historic districts attract more tourists and feature higher property values than other older neighborhoods.
Your property may be a "non-contributing" structure to the historic district's overall character. Most HDCs consider this fact and have less stringent requirements for non-historic structures. However, exterior changes to ALL structures in the historic district are subject to HDC review to ensure that those changes will not be incompatible with nor detract from the district's historic integrity.

An important part of Arkansas's culture is a proud tradition of private property rights. This aspect of our culture is valid and must be respected. However, many of the benefits of a local historic district (like enhanced property values or an aesthetically pleasing neighborhood) only arise en masse, when everyone participates.

The Arkansas Historic Districts Act does allow for historic districts to be designated without the consent of every property owner, but it remains the responsibility of the preservation community to build public support for a proposed historic district and to be available to answer any questions regarding private property rights.

Your property or neighborhood may already be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but this designation is only honorary; it does not protect an area's historic character. Only a local preservation ordinance can ensure that subsequent changes to a historic district will be compatible with the unique look and feel of its historic architecture.

Is that case, the local government must demonstrate that it has made a reasonable effort to fill these positions with a preservation-related professional. When reviewing a matter in which a discipline is not represented, the commission must consult with a professional who has expertise in that profession.

For example, if an archeological issue arises before the commission and the commission lacks an archeologist, the Arkansas Archeological Survey could be contacted.