This page provides information on various tools and resources to learn about historic preservation initiatives at various levels ranging from national to state to municipal.
CEPA National Register,
Fact Sheets on the State &
National Registers of Historic Places
There are many misconceptions concerning the criteria used for designating structures or districts for the Connecticut Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places and the effect of these designations have on on building owners and government agencies.
In addition, the possible financial benefits of these designations are not well known. In order to clarify this information, the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development has put together Fact Sheets for both the State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places, which can be found at these links. If you would like further information, please contact the New Canaan Preservation Alliance.
Local historic districts
A Local Historic District designation offers the most protection for significant historic and architectural buildings in Connecticut and allows municipalities to establish districts for which exterior architectural changes are reviewed by a local preservation commission. This allows towns to ensure that alterations, additions or demolitions are in keeping with special character of the designated district.
A Local Historic District is a designation created through a local ordinance that offers the most protection for significant historic and architectural buildings in Connecticut and allows municipalities to establish districts for which exterior architectural changes are reviewed by a local preservation commission. This allows towns to ensure that alterations, additions or demolitions are in keeping with special character of the designated district.
Any physical alterations to the exterior of a structure, construction of a new structure or demolition of an existing structure that is visible from a public way in a LHD is to be approved by the respective district Commission. Typical work which requires review would be replacement of windows or doors, siding, the erection of additions, decks, garages, fences or outbuildings. Work that generally does not require review is ordinary maintenance or repair that does not involve the change of the exterior appearance. The LHD Commission also does not regulate any interior alterations nor use of the building. It is important to contact the respective district authority for the complete set of regulations and the procedures, often described in the district handbook.
When a property owner does propose an alteration which requires review, the owner submits an application to the Historic District Commission to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness, the detailed procedures for which is available in the respective town websites.
Once a historical district has been established, buildings cannot be erected or altered within it until the historic district commission has issued a certificate of appropriateness. This requirement applies even if a building permit is not required. But the commission does not have jurisdiction over the color of paint used on the exterior of structures in the district. Similarly, a certificate of appropriateness is required to demolish a building in the district or to use an area in the district for nonresidential parking. The latter provision applies to the enlargement or alteration of parking areas in existence on October 1, 1973, even if parking is allowed under the town's zoning ordinance. The commission can also regulate outdoor advertising and bill posters in the district.
The historic district commission can request the applicant to provide plans and other information regarding the proposal to help it make its determination. In deciding whether an exterior architectural feature of a new building or alteration is appropriate, the commission must consider the type and style of exterior windows, doors, light fixtures, signs, aboveground utility structures, mechanical devices, and building materials. The commission must consider various characteristics of the relevant architectural features, including their architectural value and significance, style, scale, texture, and arrangement. It must also consider the relationship of these features to the style of other buildings in the immediate neighborhood.
The commission must hold a hearing on the application after providing public notice. The commission has 65 days from receiving the application to make its determination. The commission can issue an approval with stipulations, and can make recommendations regarding design, materials, and other features. If the commission denies the application, it must specify its reasons for its conclusion that the action would not be appropriate in its records and in the notice to the applicant. If the commission does not act within 65 days of receiving the application, it is considered approved. The commission can also grant a variance to a certificate applicant if the strict application of the law would cause undue hardship or exceptional practical difficulties for the owner. Any decision of the commission can be appealed to Superior Court.
Any property listed in a LHD is eligible for historic home tax credits provided it falls within one of the state's qualified demographic areas. For further information, please contact the State Historic Preservation Office.
New Canaan has one Local Historic District - the New Canaan/God's Acre Historic District.
For a map, list of inventoried properties, history and other information, please visit the Preservation Connecticut Website.
For additional information, you may also contact the New Canaan Historic District Commission.
CGS § 7-147b specifies the procedures a municipality must follow in establishing a historic district. First, the legislative body must appoint or authorize the chief elected official to appoint a study committee to investigate the proposed district. (The legislative body can appoint more than one committee if it proposes to establish districts that are not contiguous.) Each committee must consist of five regular and three alternate members, each of whom must be a voter who does not hold a salaried municipal office.
The committee must conduct an investigation that:
1. analyzes the historic significance and architectural merit of structures and sites to be included in the district and of the district as a whole;
2. describes the areas to be included in the district, including the number of buildings in the district by age;
3. maps the exact boundaries of the district;
4. proposes an ordinance to create the district and provides for its operation; and
5. covers other issues that the committee considers necessary or advisable.
The committee must report this information to the Connecticut Historical Commission (CHC) and the municipality's planning and zoning commissions. (If the municipality does not have such commissions, the report must go to chief elected official instead.) CHC can recommend approval, disapproval, or modification of the proposed ordinance and district boundaries. If CHC does not submit its comments and recommendations to the committee within 65 days of receiving the report, the report is considered approved.
The study committee must hold a public hearing on the establishment of the district within 130 days of the transmission of the report to the planning and zoning commissions and CHC. The comments and recommendations that are received from these entities must be read in full at the hearing. The law also specifies the notice requirements for the hearing.
Within 65 days of the hearing, the committee must submit its report and the comments and recommendations to the town's legislative body and the town clerk. The clerk must mail ballots to each owner of real property in the district regarding the establishment of the district. The ballot must follow a model specified by CHC. The return date for the ballots must be at least 15 days after they are mailed. The law specifies the procedural requirements of this election.
The proposal must receive the affirmative votes of at least two-thirds of those property owners who vote in order to go forward. If this condition is met, the legislative body can:
1. accept the committee's report and adopt an ordinance to create the district,
2. reject the report and specify the reasons why, or
3. return the report to the committee with the legislative body's proposed changes.
If the legislative body returns the report, the committee has 65 days to submit an amended report. The committee does not need to hold another public hearing unless it proposes changing the boundaries of the district. The legislative body may authorize another election if the committee proposes changing the district's boundaries.
The ordinance establishing a district must be recorded in the land records of the town. A copy of the ordinance, maps of the district, and other supporting documents must be filed with the CHC.
Once a district is created, the municipality must establish a historic district commission. The commission must consist of five regular and three alternate members, each of whom is a voter and none of whom hold salaried municipal office. The ordinance must specify the manner of appointing the members. It also must provide that at least one of the members live in the district, assuming that a resident is willing to accept this appointment. The commission can accept grants and gifts, hire staff, and incur other expenses, subject to obtaining an appropriation from the municipality or gifts or grants.
Connecticut Preservation Action
Connecticut Preservation Action is a volunteer group that works to maintain and build support for historic preservation funds and activities across Connecticut.
"Through lobbying, testimony, publicity, education, and communication, CPA watches, protects, and advocates for the expansion of support for historic preservation-friendly legislation in the state. We have eyes and ears at the capitol.
- Work closely with our preservation partners and the CT State Historic Preservation Office to set legislative agendas and strategies each legislative session
- Keep members informed and to call for support in contacting elected officials in support of the legislative agenda
- Sponsored educational events to notify developers of evolving legislation and expanding opportunities.
- Helped secure and maintain funding for the Community Investment Act (CIA) through education, lobbying and testimony on budget and other legislative items affecting preservation laws and funding
- Work with legislators to expand state tax credits allowing millions of more dollars to support historic preservation projects in Connecticut
- Lobby Congress to protect national preservation programs and funding for agencies
- For additional information, consult our member organizations.
PLANNING + ZONING
Planning and zoning are both important tools that allow communities to regulate the development, use and appearance of land within their municipality. Planning and zoning are two connected but separate concepts. While zoning is a regulatory tool used to codify how land uses are distributed, planning is a visionary process that establishes a community's development goals through a master planning process. Master plans and zoning ordinances should be in sync so that a town's regulations and goals match.
KEY NEW CANAAN PLANNING + ZONING INFO
New Canaan's Zoning Regulations are the Town's regulatory document outlines how land in Town can be used and developed. The regulations specify what uses are allowed on properties and specify dimensional requirements for different uses and land types.
The entire regulations can be reviewed here.
The Planning & Zoning Commission adopted Section 7.7 "Preservation of Historic Structures" which allows for greater flexibility in the zoning regulations with regards to dimensional requirements if needed to preserve historically significant structures in Town. Read Section 7.7 here.
In Connecticut, municipal master plans are called Plans of Conservation and Development (POCDs). They are state-mandated and must be updated every ten years. Their purpose is to outline goals and strategies for development and they cover topics such as housing, transportation, open space, natural resources, preservation, and community facilities.
New Canaan's POCD was last updated in 2014. The link to the Plan can be found here.
In Chapter 3, "Enhance and Preserve Community Character," the POCD specifically outlines numerous preservation related goals, which can be found here.
In 1998, Connecticut adopted regulations permitting the creation of "Village Districts" by municipalities. Towns can identify “village districts” for which the local zoning commission may adopt regulations for the design and placement of buildings, maintenance of public views, building materials, and landscaping. Usually, these regulations aim to ensure that new construction is in harmony with existing architectural fabric.
The State statute governing Village Districts can be read here.
In New Canaan, the downtown comprising of all retail and business zones was designated as a Village District. All projects proposed within the Village District should be reviewed under a set of guidelines developed by the Planning & Zoning Commission. The guidelines can be found here.
Connecticut General Statute 8-30g is a state law that establishes regulations related to affordable housing development. 8-30g can be a source of significant confusion and is often considered controversial, particularly because it can have a large impact on the character of communities.
For a summary of 8-30g legislation, see the memo from the Town of New Canaan’s Town Counsel posted on the Town website dated 2/22/22.
What are 8-30g developments?
Adopted in 1989, Section 8-30g of the Connecticut General Statutes, the “Connecticut Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Procedure,” promotes the development of “affordable” housing set-aside developments that contain 30% of units that are protected as affordable for households that earn 80% or 60% of Area Median Income (AMI). 8-30g includes an appeals procedure that establishes that municipalities cannot deny an affordable housing proposal unless there is a specific significant public health or safety concern that outweighs the municipality’s need for affordable housing. The burden of proof for this concern is placed on the municipality.
If the State Department of Housing has designated at least 10% of a community’s housing stock as “affordable,” that community is exempt from the appeals requirement. New Canaan has 2.9% protected affordable units and is therefore not exempt to 8-30j applications. (Housing that may be naturally affordable but is not protected under State definitions does not count towards the 10% does not count).
Please find more information on the many components of Connecticut General Statute 8-30g on the State of Connecticut’s website.
Why do developers propose 8-30g developments?
While zoning regulations in towns throughout CT restrict and dictate the scale, location and design of multi-family buildings in order to preserve community scale, developers can avail themselves of the 8-30g statute to bypass local zoning regulations. In particular, the statute allows them to build more market rate units to offset the profit lost from providing the 30% affordable units as well as bypass local requirements for height, setbacks and density.
What role does a municipality play in reviewing 8-30g proposals?
8-30g developments are reviewed by the local Planning & Zoning Commission. Public hearings are held where public comment can be heard and received.
How do 8-30g developments impact local preservation?
8-30g developments are often proposed on properties that contain existing structures, which can have historical value and significance. At a broader scale, these proposed developments are often not compatible with the surrounding size and scale of the community because they exceed zoning regulations and therefore can impact the overall look and feel of the community’s built environment.
Can towns deny 8-30g applications?
An 8-30g project can be denied only on very narrow grounds, namely if the proposal presents public health, safety or other concerns that would outweigh a town’s need for affordable housing. Unlike typical development applications, 8-30g projects cannot be rejected for incompatibility with a Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD); density; traffic congestion; height; aesthetics; concerns of neighbors or the community or failure to comply with local zoning regulations.
While 8-30g proposals are rarely denied by Planning and Zoning officials because the burden of proof on appeal is on the town, a municipality can be successful in a court case if it has sufficiently established that the concerns leading to denial are factual and substantive. As stated in Town Counsel’s memo, “in some cases, protection of an historical structure or site may be properly weighed against the need for affordable housing”. However, since 8-30g was enacted more than 30 years ago, there have been only a small number of cases annually statewide opposing such projects and it is believed, though not documented, that developers have won in 75-80% of appeals.
What is an 8-30g moratorium?
A moratorium, formally known as a “Certificate of Affordable Housing Completion” is a component of 8-30g that was added in 2000 by the State. A town can apply for a moratorium if it successfully completes a certain amount of affordable housing units - the moratorium serves as an incentive for towns to actively create quantities of affordable housing even if they have not reached the 10% threshold. Moratoria enable a town to have a four-year window in which to be exempted from 8-30g projects. A moratorium expires after four years, after which a town can apply for a subsequent moratorium if they have continued to produce sufficient new affordable units. During this four-year period, towns are expected to continue to develop affordable housing strategies.
For more information on CT Moratoria Granted under CGS 8-30g, click here.
For New Canaan Planning + Zoning information, contact the Department in Town Hall at 203.594.3042.
New Canaan’s Demolition Delay Ordinance
This Act authorizes the Town of New Canaan to impose a waiting period before granting a demolition permit for certain structures of architectural, historical, or cultural importance.
Ordinance for the Temporary Preservation of Certain Historical Structures Subject to Proposed Demolition (Approved 4-1 9-06, Effective May 5, 2006)
The purpose of this ordinance is to authorize the Town of New Canaan, as allowed by Section 29-406(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes, to impose a waiting period of not more than ninety days before granting a demolition permit for certain structures of architectural, historical, or cultural importance. The objective of this process is to promote the cultural, economic, educational and general welfare of the Town of New Canaan by establishing a process whereby the owners of buildings with significant historic characteristics will be informed of the economic, cultural, and aesthetic benefits of historic preservation and to encourage the preservation, rehabilitation and reuse of such structures. The waiting period will provide time for all interested parties to consider and put forth alternatives to demolition, and to preserve historically significant records, photographs, artifacts, and other items of continuing historical interest. This ordinance is limited to, and will provide greater public notice of, permits to demolish a building, structure, or part thereof that is more than fifty years old and five hundred square feet or more in area.
No person shall demolish any building, structure or part thereof without first obtaining a permit for the particular demolition undertaking from the Town Building Official. Such permit shall be issued except as otherwise provided in this ordinance pursuant to Section 29-406 of the Connecticut General Statutes, as amended.
When the building, structure or part thereof to be demolished is 500 square feet or more in size and at least 50 years old (hereinafter referred to as the “Structure”) then no permit shall be issued except upon compliance with the provisions of this ordinance in addition to Section 29-406 of the Connecticut General Statutes and the State Demolition Code, as amended.
Any person wishing to obtain a permit to demolish a Structure shall file an Application (hereinafter referred to as the “Application”) verified under oath in the office of the Town Building Official on a form approved by the Town Building Official which Application shall include the following information:
- The name, if any, and address of the Structure to be demolished;
- The name and address of the owner(s) of the Structure to be demolished;
- The age of the Structure to be demolished;
- The square footage of the Structure to be demolished; and
- The names and addresses of the owners of all properties adjoining (and
across the street from) the property on which the Structure to be demolished is located, according to an attached copy of a pertinent portion of the current Assessor’s map.
Within ten (10) days after the filing of an Application for a permit to demolish a Structure, the applicant shall:
- Publish in a local newspaper having substantial circulation in the Town of New Canaan a “Notice of Intent to Demolish” (hereinafter referred to as the “Notice”). Such Notice is defined and described in Section 5 below;
- Mail copies of such Notice by certified mail to the owners of all properties adjoining (and across the street from) the property on which the Structure to be demolished is situated;
- Mail copies of the Notice by certified mail to the New Canaan Historical
Society, the New Canaan Historic District Commission, and any New Canaan taxpayer who has requested, in writing, from the Town Building Official copies of any such Notices filed pursuant to this Ordinance. The Town Building Official shall maintain the list of those requesting to be so notified, and shall delete from the list those who do not annually renew in January, in writing, the request to be notified; and
- Post in a conspicuous location of the property on which the Structure is situated a sign at least 24’’ x 36” in size visible from the nearest public street or other access way adjoining the property. Such sign shall include a copy of the Notice and shall contain the word “DEMOLITION” in capital letters no less that 2” in height. If there is more than one Structure proposed for demolition, one sign shall be posted in respect to each such Structure. All signs required hereunder shall remain posted on the property, if the Permit is issued, until the completion of all demolition activities authorized by the Permit.
The Notice required by Section 4 shall be on a form approved by the Town Building Official, shall be entitled “Notice of Intent to Demolish,” and shall include the following information:
- The information required in Section 3A through 3D of this Ordinance inclusive; and
- A statement that an Application for a Permit to demolish has been filed in the office of the Town Building Official and is currently pending and is available for public inspection.
Within fourteen (14) days after publication of the Notice, the applicant shall file in the office of the Town Building Official a statement verified under oath on a form approved by the Town Building Official certifying that all of the requirements of this Ordinance have been complied with and attaching thereto a copy of the Notice, evidence of publication, a photograph of the posted sign, and all certified mail receipts.
There shall be a standing committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen consisting of at least three and not more than five persons with appropriate credentials or experience in architecture, design, construction, engineering, archeology, history, or historical preservation. The committee shall have the following duties and responsibilities:
- To prepare and update the Historic Resource Inventory listing structures in the Town of New Canaan with historical significance;
- To prepare and update written criteria for the analysis of historical, architectural, and other characteristics relevant to this ordinance;
- To reach out pro-actively to owners of significant structures and inform them of the tax benefits, grants, and economic, cultural, and aesthetic benefits of historic preservation, and to encourage the preservation, rehabilitation and reuse of such structures;
- To develop policies and procedures consistent with this ordinance;
- To review and decide upon objections to demolition filed in accordance with the following section.
- If the Town Building Official has received no pertinent written objection to the Application within fifteen (15) days following publication of the Notice in the newspaper, then the Building Official shall issue the demolition permit, provided all other requirements of the State Demolition Code have been satisfied. Pertinent written objections shall state the architectural, historical or cultural importance of the Structure. Impertinent objections may be rejected by the Building Official.
- If the Town Building Official receives a pertinent written objection to the Application within fifteen (15) days following publication of the Notice, then the Building Official shall promptly refer such objection to the Historical Review Committee. The Committee shall review and decide all pertinent objections within fifteen (15) days of receipt of the objection by the Building Official. If the Committee fails to notify the Building Official of its decision within such fifteen day period, or if the Committee makes a written finding that the Structure is not of an age, style, condition or character that is of historical, architectural or cultural significance to the Town of New Canaan, then the Building Official shall issue the demolition permit, provided the time for filing objections has passed, and provided that all other requirements of the State Demolition Code have been satisfied. If the Committee makes a timely written finding that the Structure is of historical, architectural or cultural significance to the Town of New Canaan, then the Building Official shall not issue the demolition permit until ninety (go) days after the date the Application was filed. In the event, however, that all pertinent written objections are withdrawn before the expiration of such ninety day period, or the Committee, having considered the steps that have been taken to accomplish the purpose of this ordinance, makes a finding that no further delay is appropriate, the Building Official shall issue the demolition permitprovided that all other requirements of the State Demolition Code have been satisfied.
In carrying out the purposes of this ordinance, the Building Official and the Committee shall consider, in addition to other criteria developed by the Committee, the Structure’s significance in national, state, or local history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. A Structure may be considered significant for any of the following reasons:
- The Structure is associated with events that have made a noted contribution to national, state, or local history;
- The Structure is associated with the lives of persons noted in national, state or local history;
- The Structure embodies distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction that is rare or disappearing and worthy of preservation; or represents the work of a noted architect, builder, or craftsman; or possesses high artistic values or distinctive design features or craftsmanship.
This Ordinance is intended to supplement and not to limit any requirements now or hereinafter imposed on any applicant for or recipient of a Permit and to supplement and not to limit any authority now or hereafter granted to the Town Building Official by the Connecticut Basic Building Code and the State Demolition Code. The provisions of this ordinance shall not apply to any demolition ordered by the Town Building Official because of an emergency or threat to public health or safety.
Property owners or their agents may apply to the Historical Review Committee, prior to filing an application for a demolition permit, for an advance determination of whether the Structure is of historical, architectural or cultural significance to the Town of New Canaan. The application shall be on a form provided by the Building Official, and the application fee shall be established by the Board of Selectmen. The Historical Review Committee shall hold a public hearing on the application, and shall cause notice of the public hearing to be mailed to the owners of all properties adjoining (and across the street from) the property on which the Structure is situated, and to the New Canaan Historical Society, the New Canaan Historic District Commission, and any New Canaan taxpayer who has requested, in writing, from the Town Building Official copies of any such Notices filed pursuant to this Ordinance. The Committee shall cause notice of the public hearing to be published in a newspaper having substantial circulation in New Canaan, at least six days prior to the date of the public hearing. The legal notice shall specify the date, time and location of the public hearing, and shall identify the property on which the Structure is located. If the Committee determines that the Structure is not of historical, architectural or cultural significance to the Town of New Canaan, then the notice and objection provisions of §§ 4,5,6, and 8 of this ordinance shall not be applicable. Any such determination shall be valid for three years. If the Committee determines that the Structure is of historical, architectural or cultural significance to the Town of New Canaan, then such notice and objection provisions shall be applicable.
Demolition Delay Laws are as a basic preservation tool. Demolition delay ordinances are now in use around the country. They have a common history, but they take many forms, and are more effective in some communities than in others. Tod Bryant's 2005 paper addresses the history, structure and effectiveness of these ordinances and identifies some of their most useful elements. Read more about these laws in a 2005 paper by Tod Bryant below.