What is a certificate of appropriateness?

In order to retain those attributes of our districts architecture and landscapes that qualify it as significant enough for designation locally and on the National Register of Historic Places, the 233 acres that comprise German Village is protected via city ordinance. That ordinance, among other actions, establishes the German Village Historic District Commission, empowering this seven member commission with design review for the entire district.

The design review process safeguards each and every property owner from actions that might create a negative impact on a property in the district, an impact that would affect the integrity of the entire district.

Central to the design review process is the approval of applications for certificates of appropriateness by the commission, and in some cases by administrative staff at the Columbus Historic Preservation Office.

This office is the administrative body that oversees all commissions' activities, including processing COA applications in preparation for commission review at each monthly commission meeting. Columbus has five historic district commissions.

When do I need a COA?

A certificate of appropriateness is required for any exterior change to your home or building. It is also required for landscape changes including tree removal. Even seemingly small repairs can, once underway, trigger more extensive changes than originally anticipated.

The requirement of a COA protects you the owner from an unintended code violation should your project become more invasive than anticipated.

What am I allowed to do?

The German Village Guidelines have been written specifically to assist people in determining what is an appropriate treatment for their historic home. The commissioners use these guidelines in addition to the city code in determining whether or not to award a COA based on the application. If the commission denies an application, it is required to tell the applicant why it was rejected, citing the applicable code in the city ordinance.

These guidelines are based on national standards established by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's office, the federal agency that oversees the National Park Service which in turn oversees preservation activities nationally.

What happens if I don't obtain a COA prior to doing the work?

Our city ordinance gives the city the authority to issue a code violation to anyone who changes the exterior of a home in the historic district without first obtaining a COA.

Violations are generally reported via the Columbus 311 system. Violations can be reported anonymously. Once the city receives a submission, it is reviewed and a determination to issue a code violation is made. The recipient of a violation is then given a set period of time to remedy the violation prior to receiving penalties.

Our continued success as one of the nation's oldest historic districts relies upon the active participation of each and every property owner in the district. We are not "one" without "all."

At this moment in time, you are the steward of this legacy. It is an honor to have such a responsibility and we hope you embrace the process, and the success we all share as German Villagers.

German Village Society Historic Preservation Advocate Nancy Kotting submitted the Village Notebook column .