Historic District Guidelines and FAQs

Districts chosen by the citizens of Staunton

In 1996, five of Staunton Historic Districts were chosen by the citizens of Staunton to have a zoning overlay to ensure changes made to properties respect the historic character of the architecture and of the neighborhood. Staunton’s historic neighborhoods are being revitalized through building rehabilitation and city infrastructure improvements. Ever since the citizens of Staunton designated the historic districts and City Council passed the Preservation Ordinance, property values have both grown and stabilized, and in some cases, the values have outpaced those in most other areas of the City.

Historic Districts / City of Staunton GIS System
Historic Districts / City of Staunton GIS System

Guidelines for historic property rehabilitation

To make it easier for you to understand how to maintain, enhance, and rehabilitate the character of your historic property, the City adopted Residential Historic District Design Guidelines that follow the widely accepted Secretary of Interior Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitation.

Historic Staunton Foundation is available to help homeowners and building owners understand the guidelines and how they apply to their projects. This is a free service by appointment only. Contact Frank Strassler at director@historicstaunton.org for more information.

Historic District Projects FAQs

Do you need the City's approval for changes to your property?
You DO need to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness from the City of Staunton Department of Planning and Inspections if you plan to change, add, remove, replace, or restore any architectural element that is viewable from a public area before doing any work. You may also need a building permit.

You DO NOT need to go to City Planning and Inspections to apply for “Certificate of Appropriateness” if you are:

  • maintaining and repairing with the same material “in kind”
  • matching the same profiles
  • not changing the exterior appearance of your property
  • not removing or replacing architectural elements (chimney, roof, cornice, gutters, siding, windows, porches, doors, sidewalks, drives etc.)

For a detailed explanation of Staunton’s historic districts, guidelines, and application process, visit the City of Staunton’s site on Historic Preservation Districts. You are encouraged to read Staunton’s Historic Preservation Overlay Zoning Ordinance 18.85 H-1 Historic Preservation District.

What is Staunton’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC)?
The Historic Preservation Commission (“HPC”) is a volunteer committee appointed by City Council that reviews applications for Certificates of Appropriateness (“COAs”) for exterior changes in historic districts. The Commission volunteers include people with backgrounds as property owners, real estate professionals, architects, interior designers, city planners and a liaison member from the City Council.
What is the HPC’s Time Line and Process?
  • Staunton Application for Certificate of Appropriateness are downloadable here, or are available in the City’s Planning office (3rd floor, City Hall)
  • COAs must be submitted to the City’s Planning Office by the 1st Tuesday of the month in order to be carefully reviewed by staff, disseminated to HPC volunteers, and then presented by the property owner at that’s month’s HPC meeting. The HPC meets at 5:30 p.m., in City Chambers on the 4th Tuesday of each month.
  • Homeowners/Building owners are required to be in attendance to represent their project and property.

Frank Strassler, HSF’s Executive Director, provides the “staff” review of COA applications for the City of Staunton HPC. HSF’s Executive Director is not a voting member of the HPC. The written reviews outline the historic significance and character of the property, the proposed changes to the property, and outlines the applicable guidelines from Staunton’s Residential Historic District Design Guidelines and the Secretary of Interior’s Standards and Guidelines.

Note: HSF will not offer design recommendations that conflict with the Secretary of Interior Guidelines for Historic Rehabilitation or the City’s review process.

See the Preservation help/links page for more resources.

How do I know if my home is in a historic district?
The City of Staunton maintains a Geographic Information System (GIS) with a historic districts search option through the Zoning Map portal. Or, you may email us at adminhsf@historicstaunton.org with the property’s address and we will check for you.
Do repairs go before the HPC?
Ordinary maintenance & repairs made with the exact same materials do not go before the commission. For Clarification, see Staunton City Zoning Code 18.85.060 or either call our office (540) 885-7676 or email director@historicstaunton.org.
Does the HPC review painting / paint colors?
The HPC does not normally review paint; however, there are two exceptions:

  1. There is a clause in the code concerning “violent contrasts of materials or colors and intense and lurid colors or patterns, or a multiplicity of incongruous details clearly inconsistent with the character of the present structures or with the prevailing character of the surroundings and the historic district.” which would go before the commission on a complaint basis.
  2. The original painting of masonry surfaces is not exempted from review. If your home is unpainted brick, you must go before the commission before you paint it. This practice is not often encouraged. Many 19th century masonry homes were coated with a lime wash or linseed oil and iron oxide stain to give brick a uniform appearance and the mortar joints were then line stenciled. Most of those coatings have long ago deteriorated exposing the original brick. These historic materials were physically very different than coatings used today. The application of modern paints latex or oil to brick causes many problems with the preservation of the brick and encourages long term maintenance problems. For additional information, see the Secretary of Interior Rehabilitation Guidelines.
  3. Discover your paint pallet:
Can I get tax credits for my rehabilitation?
There are Federal tax credits and State tax credits available for rehabilitation. The process is involved. Homeowners usually hire consultants to help with the applications. Documentation usually needs to be made before any work is done on the property. Federal Tax credits are for commercials properties (for at least five years). See Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources (DHR) for more information.