Historic Preservation in Connecticut
Innovative Public Policy Tools
Contact: Gregory Farmer, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation
Village Districts Act
The Village Districts Act, passed by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1998, is an aggressive tool to help municipalities protect and preserve their community character and historic development patterns. The enabling statute allows towns to designate “village districts” as a way of preserving neighborhoods, village enters, and business districts that have distinctive community character, notable landscape features, and historic structures.
Within these areas, the town zoning commission may adopt regulations governing such matters as the design and placement of buildings and maintenance of public views. These regulations "encourage conversion and preservation of existing buildings and sites in a manner that maintains the historic, natural and community character of the district." The act also provides "that proposed buildings or modifications to existing buildings be harmoniously related their surroundings, to the terrain and to the use, scale and architecture of existing buildings in the vicinity that have a functional or visual relationship to the proposed building or modification." The scale, proportions, massing, size, proportion and roof treatments should be compatible with the area and the "removal or disruption of historic traditional or significant structures or architectural elements shall be minimized."
In addition to design, the arrangement and orientation of any proposed new construction should be compatible with the immediate neighborhood. In a village district, all applications for substantial reconstruction and new construction are subject to review and comment by a qualified architect or architectural design firm retained by the municipal commission.
The Village District Act can be adopted by urban, suburban, or rural communities that exhibit traditional 'village' characteristics. The process of designating a Village District entails five key steps:
Educate the residents and support for the designation of each area as a Village District.
Inventory the structures and landscape and settings of each district, and identify problems.
Establish standards of design unique to each area and in common to all, including public landscaping, sidewalks, lighting, street furniture, pedestrian, and bike and vehicle circulation.
Set up timing and funding schedules and adopt the needed zoning regulations.
Monitor progress and effects of the local zoning and revise as needed.
In Connecticut, the Village District is distinctly different from a regulatory Local Historic District. Both encourage the preservation of historic and scenic resources, but the processes for establishing each are different. The Local Historic District requires a lengthy study process, an affirmative vote by the property owners, and approval by the town. The Village District can be adopted directly by a vote of the Planning & Zoning Commission. The review process is different as well. Local Historic District reviews are usually conducted by the members of the district commission, while Village District reviews are conducted by a design professional who submits a report and recommendations to the zoning commission.
Find the Act HERE>>