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Historic District Commission

A Property Owner's Guide to the Wethersfield Historic District


Introduction

Welcome to the Old Wethersfield Historic District. The Town of Wethersfield's Historic District was established in 1962 in response to a long-standing interest by residents of the town in the historic character and charm of Old Wethersfield. The Old Wethersfield Historic District is the largest historic district in the State of Connecticut and contains over 150 structures built prior to 1850.

The Historic District with the support of the town government, residents and merchants has helped to preserve the neighborhood charm and unique character of Old Wethersfield. The commission has developed this guide in hopes of providing Historic District residents with a clear understanding of the process of applying to the Historic District Commission. We hope you find the following information helpful.

Questions and Answers

What is the Historic District Commission?

The Historic District Commission (HDC) is an eight member commission of volunteers - consisting of 5 regular members and 3 alternate members - appointed by the Town Council. The Historic District works to promote the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the town through the preservation and protection of historic buildings and places of interest. It also seeks to preserve and protect Old Wethersfield's various distinct architectural styles.

The commission's most important function is to review applications for new construction, building additions, modifications and demolitions and to issue a "Certificate of Appropriateness" (COA) for such work.

How do I know if my property is located in the Historic District?

If your property is located north of the Wethersfield/Rocky Hill town line, south of the Wethersfield/Hartford town line, east of the railroad tracks and west of 1-91, (with a depth of 200 feet on the east side of Middletown Avenue, south of Maple Street) you are in the Historic District.

What type of work requires a "Certificate of Appropriateness" from the Historic District Commission?

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 (street or sidewalk) require a "Certificate of Appropriateness" from the Historic District Commission.

What are some examples of modifications to a building that would require a "Certificate of Appropriateness?"
  • Replacement of windows or doors, siding, building additions, decks, garages, fences and out buildings such as tool sheds, requires a "COA" from the HDC.
What are some examples of modifications to a building that would not require a "Certificate of Appropriateness?"
  • Ordinary maintenance or repair that does not involve a change of existing design, exterior materials or scale, or outward appearance.
  • Installation of storm windows or storm doors, with or without screens, painted or unpainted as long as they do not have any ornamental grilles, monograms, etc.
  • Any accessory building designed for small animals, as long as the maximum horizontal or vertical dimensions do not exceed four feet.
  • Installation of wood roof shingles on structures built prior to 1840.
  • Installation of wood, black or charcoal asphalt roof shingles on a structure built after 1840.
  • Installation of roof shingles in conformity with color samples on file with the Building Department of the Town of Wethersfield.
Is there any way to solicit feedback from the HDC prior to the formal public hearing?

The Historic District Commission strongly encourages property owners to discuss their plans with the Historic District Coordinator before submitting an application. Applicants may also ask to informally discuss their ideas at the conclusion of the Historic District Commission's regular meetings.

How often does the commission meet and what is the application process?
  • The Historic District Commission meets twice a month on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month (except in December). Applications need to be submitted two weeks before the meeting to allow for publication of a legal notice in the newspaper.
  • You may obtain an application from the Building Department or download it in PDF format.
  • The necessary information to be submitted depends on the nature of the application and may include the following: a plot plan, architectural drawings, samples of materials such as siding and manufacturer's cut sheets for windows, doors, fences, etc.
  • After your completed application form and any of the necessary information has been submitted and reviewed by town staff, it will be placed on the agenda for the next meeting.
  • The application will be advertised as a public notice in the Hartford Courant. The abutting property owners in your neighborhood will be notified by mail of your application.
  • The commission meeting contains two parts, a public hearing and a public meeting.
  • During the public hearing, you will have the opportunity to present your proposal. Members of the public are allowed to speak in favor or in opposition to your application. During the public meeting, Commission members will discuss your proposal and vote on it.
How long does the process take?

From start to finish the process generally takes from 2 weeks to 1 month depending on the complexity of the application. Occasionally, the commission may make a site visit. Please note a "Certificate of Appropriateness" is valid for only one year.

What can I do if after starting work, I realize that I will need to make changes to an approved proposal?

You will need to have your "Certificate of Appropriateness" amended. The Buiding Department will assist you in this process. Depending on the nature of the change, your request may or may not require an additional meeting with the commission.

What can I do if I don't understand or disagree with the HDC's decision?

Please call the Building Department at (860) 721-2836 for information and an explanation of the decision. You are encouraged to attend a Historic District Commission regular meeting to informally discuss your questions and concerns with the commission.

Tips on Submitting an Application

  • Meet informally with the commission to get feedback on your proposal.
  • Decide on as many of the details of your proposal as possible. Know what type of materials you will use and how the finished project will look.
  • Submit visual examples of your plans as part of your application. Plot plans, elevation drawings, line drawings, photographs, cut sheets, and architect's drawings are all critical in helping the commission to understand your proposal. Professional drawings are not required but any visual images should be simple, clear and detailed.
  • Bring to the public hearing your visual examples, and if available, a current photograph of the building.
  • Ask your contractor or architect to attend the public hearing if your project is large, complicated or you feel it would be helpful.
  • Sit in on a meeting prior to submitting your application. Sitting in will help you better understand how the process works and the elements of a successful application.

Further Information

The Historic District Commission meeting minutes are available online.

The following reference materials are available in the Building Department and the Library:

If you should have any other questions, please call Kristin Stearley, Historic District Coordinator at (860) 721-2836.