Countdown to National Historic Preservation Month

By: Rachel Dickey, Esq. 

May 1st marks the beginning of Historic Preservation Month.  Kentucky has the fourth highest number of listings on the National Register of Historic Places.  In fact there are more than 3,200 historical districts, sites and structures, encompassing 42,000 historical features.  You might live or work in one of these historical landmarks.   Whether you are the owner and operator of a business located in a historical building, or the owner of a historical home, you need to be aware of the benefits and limitations that could affect your property.   This blog article is intended to give you an overview of the national and local historical designations that could affect your Jefferson County Home or Business and to provide you with important resources.

National Register of Historic Places

Designation in the National Register of Historic Places is a designation for which you must apply; however, there are also historical districts that have been identified by the register.  Unlike local designations, being on the national registry does not impose development limitations.   That being said, owners of listed buildings are encouraged to use the register as a resource and planning tool to help preserve the building’s historical significance.  

Designation also comes with a number of benefits.  It can help protect your property from eminent domain because, pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, the government is required to consider the historical significance of the structures it seeks to claim.   Designation can also provide the opportunity for certain tax credits.  For example, an owner rehabilitation of depreciable property might get back as much as 40% of their rehabs costs—20% in the form of an Investment Tax Credit (federal) and another 20% in the form of a Home-owner’s Tax Credit (state).  For non-depreciable (private) property, the Home-owner’s Tax Credit can return as much as 30% of the rehab costs.  In order to qualify for these credits you must comply with the rehabilitation standards set by the Secretary of the Interior which can be found at the links below.  

National Historic Landmarks Program Application:

National Historic Landmarks Rehab Guidelines:

Kentucky Heritage Council

Kentucky does not have its own historical building designation, but works in collaboration with the National Register of Historic Places.  Like the national registry, the state does not regulate or limit rehabilitation, but offers guidelines and resources as an incentive.  For example, in some instances the state will offer a tax credit to purchasers of a historic home that has just been renovated. 

Kentucky Site Protection Program:

Kentucky Rehabilitation Tax Incentives:

Preservation Kentucky Inc.:


Jefferson County

Local Preservation District and Landmarks

Unlike the national registry, which you apply for, the local designation is bestowed on the property by the government whether you want it or not.  In Jefferson County there are certain areas deemed Landmark Preservation Districts and Historical Landmarks.  If your home or business falls within the boundaries of one of these districts, or is a designated Landmark, you will be subjected to additional planning and review processes that are designed to protect the historical integrity of your home or building.  Any project involving physical changes to the exterior of building, structure, or property designated as a local landmark or located within a preservation district, will require approval in the form of a Certificate of Appropriateness. 

In addition to individually designated Landmarks, Local Preservation Districts are located in the following neighborhoods (be sure to check the district maps to see if you fall within the district boundaries):

-          Butchertown (Butchertown Guidelines)

-          Clifton (Clifton Guidelines)

-          Limerick

-          Old Louisville

-          Cherokee Triangle

-          Parkland Business

-          West Main Street

Unless indicated, the districts are subject to the standard guidelines (which can be found in the resource list below).  

If you live in a Local Preservation District, you must submit a Landmarks application for a Certificate of Appropriateness.   The application requires, among other things, a land development report, current photographs showing the building front, specific project area, and surrounding buildings, pictures, samples, brochures, or other technical data describing materials, such as windows, doors, roofing, fencing, etc. to be used in the renovation or replacement, and one map of the project area and surrounding properties.  You will also need two copies of the site plan, floors plans, and elevation drawings.  For additional requirements you can find the Landmark Certificate of Appropriateness application on the Louisville Metro Planning and Design Services website at the link below. 

After you submit your application, case managers will determine whether the completed application is a staff or committee level application.  Staff reviews will take two weeks to issue an approval or an approval with conditions.  If you are denied you have 30 days to appeal the decision in writing.  If the case manager determines that the application requires committee review, then the application will be handed over to the Architectural Review Committee (ARC), and will be placed on the docket for a public meeting. 

If your proposed development is sent to a public hearing you are required to send public notification to your neighbors by mail more than 7 days prior to the public meeting.   After you provide notice, you must submit an affidavit of notification.  Prior to the meeting, the case manager will prepare a staff report and agenda which will be provided to the ARC members and will be posted the week before.   ARC meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month starting at 4:30 p.m. at the Metro Development Center.  If the ARC denies your application, you have 30 days to appeal in writing to the Landmarks Commission.  If it is denied again, you may appeal to the circuit court.

Overlay Districts

In addition to Land Preservation Districts, the city of Louisville has also identified Overlay Districts which encompass the Bardstown/Baxter Avenue Overlay District, the Nulu Overlay District and the Downtown Development Overlay District.  Renovations to buildings in this area require an Overlay District Permit.  The application for the permit is the same as the application for the LOA, however, it will be referred to a different committee.  After the application is submitted, case managers have two weeks to review and determine if it is a staff level or committee level review.  If the application goes to committee it will be placed on the next available docket for the DDRO or BROD Overlay Committees for a public meeting.   Once again, notice is required to adjacent property owners and an affidavit of notification is required.  After the meeting the committee will vote to approve, approve with conditions, continue the case, or deny.  If approved, the permit will be signed and sent to the applicant.

Jefferson County Landmark District LOA Process:

Jefferson County LOA and Overlay Permit Applications:

Jefferson County Historic Landmarks and Preservation Districts Myths and Mistakes:

Jefferson County Lists of Preservation Districts, Overlay Districts and their applicable guidelines for renovations or alternations: