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Differences Between National Register and Local Historic Districts/Landmarks

One of the historic preservation issues that often causes the most confusion is the difference between different types of historic designations and what those designations mean for individual property owners.

There are two basic types of historic designations—National Register of Historic Places and local designation.

  National Register Local Designation
What types of properties may be listed? Individual buildings, districts, structures (such as bridges), objects (statues, monuments), and sites (usually archeological sites) Generally - Individual buildings, districts, structures (such as bridges), objects (statues, monuments), and sites (usually archeological sites). Maryland law allows local governments to designate all of these types of properties, but some local ordinances may not include all of these categories.
What makes a property eligible for designation? Properties must be historically significant at the local, state, or national level for one of the following reasons: associated with important events or broad patterns of history; associated with the life of a significant person; representative of a type or style of architecture, or the work of a master; or have the ability to yield new information (generally for archeological sites).

Properties must also possess integrity – the physical features that convey the property’s significance.
Varies by jurisdiction. Local governments may define their own criteria for determining significance. Generally these criteria are similar to the National Register criteria. Certified Local Governments must have criteria that are substantially similar to the National Register criteria.

Some local governments use integrity to determine eligibility, but most do not.
Who decides if a property is designated? MHT reviews all National Register nominations and submits them to the Governor’s Consulting Committee on the National Register (GCC) for review. If the GCC approves the nomination, then MHT sends the nomination to the National Park Service, which has final decision making authority. The local Historic Preservation/District Commission reviews designation applications/nominations and makes a recommendation to the elected body. In some communities the Planning Commission also reviews designation materials. Because designation is a zoning action only the governing body (Council/Commissioners) has the legal authority to designate properties as historic.
Do I need to get permission to make changes to my property? No. Listing in the National Register does not restrict individual property owners from making changes to the interior or exterior of their properties UNLESS they are utilizing State or Federal funds, permits, or other assistance as part of their project OR are receiving State or Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits. Yes. Owners of locally designated properties must receive approval from their local Historic Preservation Commission for changes to the exterior of their properties OR if they are building a new building in a local historic district.