Municipalities have three options when it comes to recognizing or protecting historic character in a specific area of the community. (1) National Register historic districts, (2) locally designated historic districts, and (3) neighborhood heritage districts, each of which is distinctively different. Designations can be separate or can overlap with each other. A historical resources survey should be carried out, and public input obtained, to help determine which type of district might be appropriate.
- Comparison Chart: What is the Difference Between Historic Districts, Heritage Commissions, and Historical Societies?
1. National Register Historic District
A National Register district is initiated at the local level for ultimate approval by both the state and federal government. Such districts are strictly honorary, and impose no review or restrictions on the use or alterations to properties in the district--unless state or federal funds, permits or licenses are involved. Then a consulting review process must be followed, called Section 106, that aims to eliminate, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects to historic resources brought about by the federally funded, licensed, or permitted action.
Detailed information on National Register historic districts or the Section 106 process may be obtained by consulting the NH Division of Historical Resources.
2. Locally Designated Historic District
A locally designated historic district is a zoning district (usually an overlay), created at the municipal level and administered by a locally-appointed citizen commission, to preserve the distinctive historic character of buildings or structures in a defined area for public benefit. Using regulations and guidelines developed by the community, Historic District Commissions review proposals for exterior alterations, new construction and demolition on properties within the district . Property-owner's plans must meet with the approval of the Historic District Commission before construction can begin.
3. Neighborhood Heritage District
A neighborhood heritage district (also known as a neighborhood conservation district) is similar to a locally designated historic district in that both are zoning districts, but the heritage district operates under more flexible, less stringent standards. A heritage district is a group of buildings and their settings that are architecturally and/or historically distinctive and worthy of protection based on their contribution to the architectural, cultural, political, economic or social history of the community. Sometimes a heritage district lacks sufficient significance or integrity to be designated as a traditional historic district. In other cases, the neighborhood or political climate favors looser standards.
As of July, 2016, there were no Neighborhood Heritage Districts in New Hampshire.
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