Fredericksburg's identity and character are directly related to its rich history. This history, in fact, is a microcosm of the national experience, encompassing as it does the period from European exploration of the New World to the modern day. The City seeks to preserve and enhance its defined historic resources to encourage economic activity, neighborhood stability, and cultural growth.  

In its 1972 Zoning Ordinance, Fredericksburg established its Historic District to actively guide the preservation of its historic character. During the next 25 years, the Architectural Review Board helped to regulate development, with measurable public benefits. Property values within the City's Historic District, for example, increased at a significantly higher rate than comparable properties outside the District. In addition, commercial activity in the Central Business District revived to produce revenues that rival other commercial sections of the City. 

The above policy has set the stage for future  growth. An analysis of business location decisions shows that successful firms seek areas that possess a good quality of life. Companies that must recruit and retain employees have found that amenities such as quiet streets, good schools, and urban recreational activities are often more important to them than inexpensive land. The City of Fredericksburg provides what these types of businesses desire - an attractive and stable community in which to locate. 

The City government administers the necessary regulatory process, but shares custody of the City's architectural and   historic heritage with private citizens. As a consequence, this handbook will benefit both residents and public officials because it relates historic preservation to community planning and development while also providing applicable maintenance and restoration guidelines. The purpose of maintaining a community's character, to reemphasize the point, is not to develop a static museum for visitors. Instead, the City of Fredericksburg has adopted preservation policies to enhance a living, growing community with a vibrant central business district and cohesive residential neighborhoods. 

When Design Review Is Required  

To achieve the City's historic preservation goals, a property owner must obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Architectural Review Board before changing the exterior of his or her building by addition, alteration, or demolition. A Certificate of Appropriateness is also required for new construction within the Historic District as well as to install most signs. In fact, the City's Department of Code Compliance will not issue a building or a sign permit until the Certificate of Appropriateness has been issued. Interior modifications on the other hand, are exempt from review as are many items considered to be routine maintenance. City Planners are available to answer any questions in this regard. 

All applications for Certificates of Appropriateness are made to the City's Planning Office and are submitted approximately three weeks prior to the scheduled meeting to allow City staff time to provide the required public notice in The Free Lance-Star. Like other development procedures - such as requests for rezonings - the ARB public hearing provides the opportunity for citizens to comment on proposed development and redevelopment in their community. 

The ARB meets on the second Monday of every month, except October when it meets on the third Monday (to avoid conflicts with the Columbus Day weekend). The meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers. These are public hearings and all interested persons may present their views. Information pertinent to upcoming meetings is made available to the public and may be obtained in the Planning Office, prior to the hearing. Once a construction project or sign is approved, the Planning Office issues a Certificate of Appropriateness. Any ARB decision may be appealed to City Council by either the applicant or by an opponent. Written notice of intent to appeal, however, must be submitted within 14 days after the decision to be appealed was rendered. 

The ARB recognizes that their review process can be confusing to the uninitiated. Typically, the larger the construction project, the greater the design challenge to integrate it into the City's built environment. As a consequence, the ARB makes itself available to meet with applicants informally to work out various aspects of an application. Many architects take advantage of this opportunity as do a variety of property owners. These informal work sessions can take place at the end of a scheduled meeting on the second Monday of the month or can be scheduled for the fourth Monday. The ARB will also meet on site, if an applicant desires to walk through a project in the field. The purpose of this type of support to citizens and property owners is to help them to understand how their project will be evaluated and to let them know how their project relates to the community as a whole. The flow chart on the following page outlines the process.