HPC FAQ's and Answers

1. If I want to make a change to my property located in a historic district, what’s the procedure?

You may be required to submit a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) to the Historic Preservation Commission for approval. And maybe not. Contact us first to see if you’ll need a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) application. Some projects may receive administration approval in lieu of a Commission meeting, and some projects may not need approval at all. Email HPC@wl.in.gov or call (765) 775-5160 with your questions.

If required, you’ll complete a COA application and submit the form with supporting materials (photos/drawings/description of work) to the Department of Development. (See the Application tab for form and examples.) You can email it to us or drop it off at the office in the Morton Community Center, 222 N. Chauncey, Room 102.

Once submitted, your application is reviewed by our staff to determine if approval from the full Commission is required - some changes can be approved by our staff without a Commission meeting. If it does, a three-member COA Subcommittee will review your application at their next meeting and discuss the proposed changes with you or your representative and will make a recommendation to the full Commission meeting.

Your application will be voted on at the next regular monthly Commission meeting, which is open to the public and allows time for public comment. Please refer to the calendar for meeting details.

View the Certificate of Appropriateness Application (PDF) 

2. What is a Certificate of Appropriateness?

A Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) is the approval granted to a property owner who has gone through the review process for exterior work on a structure located within a local historic district. The Building Commission will not approve building or demolition permits for properties located within a local historic district without a COA on file. View the Certificate of Appropriateness Application (PDF).

3. Where are West Lafayette’s historic districts located?

Currently, West Lafayette has one historic district, the New Chauncey Historical District. See map here. 

4. Is there a difference between a National Register Historic District and a local historic district?

Yes, this is one of the largest misunderstandings about historic districts - there are two different types.

National Register Historic Districts are established and determined to be important to American history, culture, architecture or archaeology by the National Park Service. Inclusion in a National Register Historic District is honorary and provides historic structures with limited protection from adverse effects by State and Federal involved projects. We have three National Register Historic Districts in West Lafayette.

1) Chauncey-Stadium Avenues Historic District encompasses 1600 acres and 644 buildings with Queen Anne, Shingle style, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Bungalow/American Craftsman style architecture, 2) Hills and Dales Historic District encompasses 220 acres and 136 buildings with Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, French Renaissance and Ranch style architecture, and 3) Happy Hollow Heights Historic District encompasses 54 buildings in a planned residential section with representative examples of Ranch, Modern, and Split-level style architecture.

Local Historic Districts are established by local city ordinance and are overseen by the West Lafayette Historic Preservation Commission. Designation as a local historic district does not prevent you from making changes to your property; it simply guides you toward making the most appropriate alterations to create historic harmony between old and new.

If and when you wish to make changes to certain exterior facets of your property (that are visible from a public right of way), you may be required to complete an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) and present the proposed changes to the Historic Preservation Commission. Contact us first to see if you’ll need a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) application. Some projects may receive administration approval in lieu of a Commission meeting. Contact HPC@wl.in.gov or call (765) 775-5160 with your questions.

View the Certificate of Appropriateness Application (PDF). 

5. What about repair and maintenance - Do I have to apply to the Commission for every fix?

No, general maintenance like repairing a door or window, painting a previously painted surface, or cleaning the exterior of your building do not require a COA from the Historic Preservation Commission. We can provide you with a list of best practices for dealing with repair and maintenance of historic structures, but our approval is not required for the basic upkeep of your home or building.

6. Can the West Lafayette Historic Preservation Commission tell me what color I have to paint my house?

Absolutely not. A Certificate of Appropriateness is not required to determine paint colors

on previously-painted buildings in historic districts, as paint colors are not permanent. However, if public funds are involved in the building’s rehabilitation, you must receive approval of the choice of paint colors. You can contact the Department of Development for suggestions of reputable paint businesses that offer historic paint color schemes.

The only times when a COA is required is when you want to paint previously unpainted masonry buildings and its features, including brick, terra cotta, concrete and stone. The Commission has the authority to review and approve painting previously unpainted metal building elements of copper, brass or bronze as well as the color of permanent siding and roofing materials.

Please review Ordinance No. 19-13 Historic Preservation Commission: Boundaries, Powers, Duties, Guidelines and Procedures 

7. Does the West Lafayette Historic Preservation Commission have the authority to tell me what landscaping I can install?

No, but hardscape, like patios and walls, may be subject to the City landscaping ordinance. 

8. Does designation as a local historic district prevent me from constructing an addition to my house?

No, but additions to structures located within a local historic district must be reviewed and approved by the Historic Preservation Commission. Our goal is to help you maintain the original historic fabric of your property as you enlarge your living space.

When constructing an addition, you need to pay attention to historic design features, such as - adding similar windows and doors to blend well with existing patterns, using complementary siding material, or making alterations to the addition's roof line. Details are the difference between good stuff and great stuff.

9. Does designation as a local historic district prevent me from demolishing my building?

Not necessarily. Demolition of historic structures is not prohibited, but it is discouraged. You’ll need to submit a COA application. If the Commission denies your request to demolish a building, you may appeal the decision and the request will be reviewed by an appeal board which will review the request and either uphold or overturn the Commission's original decision. For complete information regarding the demolition of historic buildings, see “Appeal Provisions” in Ordinance No. 19-13 Historic Preservation Commission: Boundaries, Powers, Duties, Guidelines and Procedures.

10. Does designation as a local historic district prevent me from building on a vacant lot?

Absolutely not, but plans for new construction in a historic district must be submitted to and approved by the Historic Preservation Commission prior to construction.

If you have plans to build on a vacant lot, you should notify the Commission very early in the planning process to ensure that the design is compatible with the surrounding historic fabric of the neighborhood. Attractive new construction can be designed to complement adjacent historic structures by paying close attention to architectural styles, lot placement, building orientation, scale and size of the building, roof shape, and window and door placement. See the West Lafayette Historic Preservation Commission Resource Guide for detailed information.

11. Am I prevented from installing new windows or doors if I live in a historic district?

Not necessarily. Windows and doors should be retained, repaired, and reused wherever possible, but if they are deteriorated beyond repair, you may replace them with new energy-efficient ones as long as they match the originals in size, design, material, color, shape, and number of panes. Before you get started, please consult the Windows and Doors section in the West Lafayette Historic Preservation Commission Resource Guide for detailed information.

12. What are the benefits of living in a local historic district?

Being in a historic district helps protect your property investment. Your house is only as good as the house next door, and being in a historic district gives your neighbors rules to play by to keep the neighborhood looking good. Guidelines for architectural continuity preserve the neighborhood’s historic identity, and provide a level of uniform attractiveness amongst homes; much like a Home Owners Association guides its members.

13. Will living in a local historic district affect my property values?

Yes! Studies have proven that property values within historic districts increase at the same rate, or faster than property values that are located outside of historic districts. There’s no evidence that shows that property values decline in historic districts vs. non-historic districts. If property values do decline, they drop no faster or farther than values outside of the district. Click here for more information. 

14. If I have questions, who can I contact?

If you have any questions concerning your property in a historic district or about the West Lafayette Historic Preservation Commission, please contact Julia Zuchkov or Erik A. Carlson in the Department of Development at (765) 775-5160, by email HPC@wl.in.gov, or stop by the office in the Morton Community Center, 222 N. Chauncey Avenue, Room 102, West Lafayette, IN  47906.

Contact Us

Erin Easter, Director of Development
1200 N Salisbury St
West Lafayette, IN 47906

In this Department

Topics of Interest

More Information