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Understanding the Process: Working with the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP)

The Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) is the Baltimore City agency responsible for designating and regulating local historic districts and landmarks. CHAP reviews and approves all proposed alterations, including demolition, of locally designated historic properties. Alterations must meet the design guidelines CHAP uses to preserve the character of designated districts and individually landmarked historic properties.

Many historic neighborhoods in Baltimore have their own Architectural Review Committee (ARC) that works with property owners on alteration proposals. This neighborhood-level advisory review is a critical first step in the process, and must be completed before CHAP begins its review.

After the neighborhood ARC review, the proposed alteration is submitted to CHAP in the form of a Notice To Proceed application. CHAP staff reviews the application to ensure the work meets the design guidelines. If all the required information is provided, and the project is relatively simple, the staff review and approval process can take as little as 48 hours. Notice To Proceed applications for exterior painting provide a good example of a minor alteration reviewed and approved by staff as to ensure the use of appropriate paint types and colors. Major rehabilitation, new construction, and controversial applications often require further scrutiny by the commission at a scheduled public hearing.

After the application is approved at the staff or commission level, CHAP grants a Notice To Proceed permitting the proposed alteration. The Notice in Proceed, in combination with a work permit from Baltimore Housing’s Office of Permits and Building Inspections, allows the alteration work to begin.   

Historic Property Owner’s Checklist for Notice To Proceed Applications

  1. Contact CHAP or visit their website to verify whether your property is located within a local historic district or is designated as a city landmark.
  2. Contact Baltimore Housing’s Office of Permits and Building Inspections to apply for a general building work permit for the proposed project.
  3. Contact and work with your neighborhood Architectural Review Committee (ARC) to develop and initially review your alteration proposal. Use the Notice to Proceed application (available online) as a framework for the advisory ARC review process. (Some neighborhoods do not have ARCs, in which case this step of the process may be completed with CHAP’s assistance.)
  4. After working with your neighborhood ARC, fill out the CHAP Notice to Proceed application with a detailed description of your project proposal. Submit the application to CHAP.
  5. Applications that recognize and follow CHAP’s design guidelines are generally approved by staff and do not require the review of the commission. CHAP staff generally reviews and approves applications within 48 hours.
  6. Controversial and extensive proposals often require consideration at a scheduled commission meeting. The commission may create conditions for application approval, such as a modification to the alteration, requiring further review at the staff or commission level.
  7. Approval by CHAP staff or commission completes the alteration proposal process and a Notice to Proceed is issued. The notice, in combination with a general building work permit, allows the work to begin.

 

Visit the CHAP website for more information on the process, including Baltimore City’s Historic Preservation Procedures and Design Guidelines.

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