Local Historic Districts & Commissions
Local Historic Districts are areas of historic and/or architectural value in which historic buildings and their settings are protected by public review. A Local Historic District is established and administered by a community to protect the distinctive characteristics of historically important areas, and to encourage new designs that are compatible with the area's setting. Local Historic District ordinances are local laws that are adopted by communities under Chapter 40C of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, enacted in 1960. 40C and local ordinances define how Local Historic Districts operate. Inclusion in a Local Historic District does not affect use of buildings, but does subject exterior changes to review by a Historic District Commission. This design review process assures that changes will not detract from the district's historic character. Historic District Commissions do not necessarily prevent changes or new construction. They ensure that changes and additions are appropriate, and protect the architectural and historic values of the district. A Local Historic District is not intended to be burdensome to property owners, but is established by a community to manage changes and protect historic buildings, landscapes, and character of a district. For detailed project review information please see the Project review and application forms page.
Newton has four Local Historic Districts.
Before an applicant can undertake any work on a property in a historic district, the Commission must first issue a Certificate of Appropriateness, Hardship, or Non-Applicability. The Commission considers each application individually to determine whether the proposed changes are appropriate. The historic development patterns, architectural characteristics, and visual qualities of the district form the basis of the Commission's decision on what constitutes an appropriate change. All applications must be filed by 5:00pm 15 days before the scheduled meeting to be placed on the agenda.