Including historic preservation in a community’s comprehensive plan provides a foundation for establishing planning, zoning, and capital investment policies that protect historic places. The benefits of this foresight are maximized through cooperation among local, state, and federal agencies such as the State Historic Preservation Office, DelDOT, the Office of State Planning Coordination (OSPC), and The National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Municipal Planning Checklists, developed by OSPC, recommend that comprehensive plans include a chapter to address the need to preserve community character through historic preservation, the protection of the natural environment, and the enhancement of cultural institutions. A historic preservation chapter of a comprehensive plan should be prepared by a jurisdiction’s planning commission and municipal staff with input from citizens, ethnic groups, nonprofit organizations (e.g., Preservation Delaware), educational institutions, museums, and other historical, environmental, and archaeological societies. The comprehensive plans of Milford and Newark serve as examples for how to acknowledge the importance of preservation in official planning documents. Many comprehensive plans include a Historical Resources Map. The City of Dover’s historic preservation component of its comprehensive plan also provides a map that delineates National Register of Historic Places individual sites and historic districts as well as the City’s historic district zone.
Finally, local governments should also consider possible impacts of land use changes and development to the preservation of historic resources. The Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) process, coordinated by the Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination, provides state agency review of major land use change proposals prior to submission to local governments. It ensures that proposed changes in land use have no detrimental impacts, such as to historic properties, sites, or resources.
Local Government Strategies
To encourage historic preservation in their communities, local governments can:
- Gain recognition for Delaware’s historic sites through encouraging nominations to the National Register of Historic Places.
- Educate local officials and citizens on the benefits of historic preservation.
- Promote the adaptive reuse of historic buildings.
- Promote awareness of the state Historic Tax Credit Program that can assist property owners in preserving and rehabilitating their historic properties.
- Adopt historic design standards, or work with property owners to ensure that new construction is not out of character with the historic district.
- Join or learn more about resources provided by Downtown Delaware that seeks to provide Delaware’s historic downtowns, communities, and small businesses with tools to revitalize their commercial districts, increase entrepreneurship and innovation, and enhance quality of place.
- Continue education and advocacy to enhance the economic and community development potential of historic preservation programs, such as Historic Districts, Heritage Tourism, Main Street (Downtown Delaware), Scenic Byways, Agriculture Preservation, and Rural Conservation.
Local Government Policies
Adopting policies that support historic preservation is the best way local governments to ensure that historic treasures remain part of their communities for generations to come. Historic districts, geographically-specific areas that have a high concentration of significant properties, can be established by local governments to protect the historic integrity of specific neighborhoods. They are governed by zoning standards that encourage sensitivity to historic character. Many communities, including the City of Lewes have created Historic Preservation Commissions that serve in an advisory role to local governments, and may also be used to oversee standards set in place by historic districts. Demolition review laws are another important tool that can be used by local governments. These laws require that before applications for demolition are granted, that their possible historic significance is investigated. All of these policies, and others that receive similar results, may be adopted by local governments individually or incorporated into a historic preservation ordinance that provides regulations applicable to historic properties.