Major Work Certificate of Appropriateness (COA)

Raleigh Historic Development Commission

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Before Submitting an Application Prepare Application Materials Submittal Instructions Project Review and Permitting Paying Fees

Major Work COA applications are reviewed by the COA Committee of the Raleigh Historic Development Commission (RHDC) in a quasi-judicial evidentiary hearing held once per month.

The COA Committee typically meets on the fourth Thursday of the month (check for holidays) at 5 p.m. in Council Chamber (Room 201) at 222 W. Hargett St., Raleigh, NC 27601. See the RHDC Meeting Dates and Deadlines calendar for COA application deadlines and hearing dates.

Meeting agendas and previous meeting minutes are posted online at least 10 business days prior to the meeting. Although you must be present in-person to participate, COA Committee meetings are broadcast live on RTN 11 and livestreamed on the City of Raleigh YouTube channel. To watch past meetings, visit the video services webpage under “Other Government Videos.”

Past Major Work COA cases since May 2020 are available on the City’s online agenda platform (BoardDocs). Approved Minor Work COA cases are available on the Development Approvals webpage. Full physical property files are also available for review by appointment.

Before Submitting an Application

Is Your Property Locally Designated?

Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) zoning permit approvals are only required for exterior changes to a locally designated historic property. To determine whether your property is located within a local Historic Overlay District (HOD) or is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark (RHL), follow the instructions on the COA webpage.

Are You the Property Owner?

Because Major Work COA cases are decided in a quasi-judicial evidentiary hearing, the applicant is required to be the current property owner or someone with a valid lease or option or contract to purchase or lease. If the property is not owned by an individual, the applicant must be an authorized agent of the landowner (see § 160D-403) and attorney representation is required at the COA hearing.

Design Review Standards

All COA projects are reviewed for congruity with the special character of the historic district or landmark and the  Design Guidelines for Raleigh Historic Districts and Landmarks. Before applying for a COA, read the Design Guidelines and your property’s historic designation report to ensure the proposed work complies with them.

Pre-Application Discussion

A virtual meeting with the Historic Preservation Unit staff is available prior to submitting your Major Work COA Application. Contact information to schedule a meeting with staff is located in the blue box on the upper right corner of this page.

You may also wish to review recently approved COAs to better understand what types of information to include in a successful application. Past Major Work COA cases since May 2020 are available on the City’s online agenda platform (BoardDocs). Full physical property files are also available for review by appointment.

Prepare Application Materials

Application Materials

An application will not be considered complete until the following required items have been submitted:

Required for Submittal
  • Signed Certificate of Appropriateness application form.
  • Payment of filing fee (see the Development Fee Guide on the City’s official website for current fees) - Payment must be made online through the Permit and Development Portal
  • Written description of project and materials. Describe your project clearly and in detail. Cite the applicable sections of the Design Guidelines. Include exact dimensions for materials to be used (e.g. width of siding, window trim, etc.). Provide material samples, if appropriate.
  • Color photographs of the existing property. Images should include each side of the house, all yards, and streetscapes.
  • Stamped envelopes addressed to all property owners and tenants within 100 feet of property.  Staff will provide a list of the mailing addresses to the project contact after application submission.
Required for Most Projects
  • Scaled existing and proposed site drawings (see Site Drawings and Tree Protection for additional information). 
    • Plot plan showing buildings, additions, sidewalks, driveways, trees, property lines, etc. 
    • Tree survey that includes size (DBH), species, and critical root zone for each tree greater than 8” diameter when measured at 4’ above ground level.
    • Tree protection plan include material staging area, construction access, limits of disturbance, and location of tree protection fencing.
    • Grading plan that shows the proposed extent of change in elevation to the existing grade.
  • Scaled existing and proposed architectural drawings
    • Plan drawings (including floor plans, roof plans, etc).
    • Elevation drawings showing the existing and proposed façade(s). For any project including additions, decks, and porches, include the grade.
Required for Some Projects
  • Paint schedule and physical paint samples, when exterior paint is changing color.
  • Manufacturers specifications for new items to be used (doors, windows, railings, etc.) including a section drawing.
  • Evidence of the proposed work's congruity with the special character of the historic overlay district or Raleigh Historic Landmark.  Examples include: Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, historic photographs or documentation, labeled photographs as described below, etc.
    • Labeled, current photographs (with address) of historic examples of similar features within the same historic district.
    • Labeled, current photographs (with address) of completed work similar to the proposed project within the same historic district. Check with staff to determine if the work is historic or received a COA.
Additional Requirements for Demolition Applications
  • Detailed photographs of existing property, including each overall façade, significant architectural details, overall site/landscaping, and contextual streetscapes.
  • Elevation and plan drawings (with a graphic scale).
  • Plot plan (with a graphic scale) that shows all buildings, additions, sidewalks, driveways, trees, property lines, etc. 


Submittal Instructions

Submitting for a Major Work COA

At this step, your application materials should be ready to assemble. Applications and fees must be submitted online using the City’s Permit and Development Portal.

Initial Submittal

The system requires three attachments at the time of submittal: the COA application form, a written description, and current property photographs. You can add as many other attachments as needed to provide a complete application. All forms, plans, and supporting documents must be attached as PDFs, Word documents, or JPEGs. Links to online products you wish to install will not be accepted.

Initial Staff Review

After the online submission, a Historic Preservation Unit staffer will be assigned to the case. Staff will make an initial review to determine clarity and completeness, and if more information is required for the COA Committee to make a decision. Staff will send an email outlining what additional materials are required (if any), a mailing list for creating stamped envelopes, and a secondary revised materials deadline.

Revised Submittal

By the deadline provided with the initial staff comments, a single revised PDF document containing the full COA application packet must be uploaded to the case in the online permit portal. The PDF should include the signed COA application form, all initial information submitted (unless revised in response to staff comments), and any additional required or supplemental materials prepared to address staff comments. No physical copies of the COA application are needed.

Drawing and Photograph Standards

To ensure the readability of your application materials,  follow the drawing and photograph standards listed below.  If your application materials do not meet these standards, your application will not be considered complete or placed on an agenda.

  • Sheet all drawings to print on 11" x 17" (tabloid sized) paper. Each page should be limited to one elevation or drawing element (section, detail, etc).
  • Ensure all linework, hatches, and noting are scaled to print legibly at 11" x 17".
  • All drawings must be scaled with a visual graphic scale and include a label that identifies the drawing.
  • Size all photographs to be at minimum 4" x 6", with a maximum of 2 photographs per letter-sized or 8 1/2" X 11" page. 
  • Label all photographs with a street address and the pertinent information being conveyed.


Stamped, Addressed Envelopes

Stamped and addressed envelopes must be delivered to the city offices at One Exchange Plaza in order for the COA application to be considered complete. The envelope drop-off date corresponds to the revised materials deadline. The envelopes should be letter-sized, empty, and with no return address. Self-sealing envelopes are discouraged.  Be sure to include an envelope for each mailing address provided by staff, including the property owner.

The application is complete once staff receives the revised digital COA application packet and the stamped envelopes. Complete Major Work applications are placed on the next COA Committee agenda, based upon which COA application deadline date they meet.


Project Review and Permitting

Staff Reports

Once an application is complete, the assigned case planner will write a report evaluating the work request for congruity with the special character of the historic district or landmark property and the Design Guidelines. The staff report includes a congruity analysis of the work request and evidence provided, notes any staff concerns, and provides potential conditions for the COA Committee to consider during their discussion. Staff reports are prepared in advance of the meeting and made publicly available with the online agenda and emailed directly to the applicant at least 10 days prior to the meeting.

Site Visits

Staff typically will visit the property as part of the review process. Members of the COA Committee review the application materials and staff reports and also make a site visit prior to the hearing. Committee members may not discuss the details of the case with applicants, neighbors, or fellow committee members prior to the hearing.

Public Notice

Notification of the COA Committee meeting and evidentiary hearings on the agenda is made in several ways. A sign is posted on the subject property. The owners of properties within 100 feet of the subject property are sent a letter with a link to the meeting agenda. A legal ad is placed in the newspaper.

Notification of tenants is also required. Where available, mailing addresses for tenants will be provided by staff for the stamped envelopes. If addresses are not available, staff will provide the applicant with tenant sign materials and additional posting instructions as needed.

Participating in the COA Evidentiary Hearing

No sign-up is required ahead of time, but anyone wishing to comment on a case must be present in-person at the meeting. All individuals (including but not limited to property owners, witnesses, neighbors, and attorneys) with competent and material evidence relevant to a case may participate in the evidentiary hearing.

The COA Evidentiary Hearing Procedure guide describes the process for the quasi-judicial hearings required for each Major Work COA application. All remarks and evidence presented should address the project’s congruity with the special character of the district or landmark property and the Design Guidelines for Raleigh Historic Districts and Landmarks.

Applicants or those wishing to speak in support or opposition to the case may bring new information directly to the COA Committee meeting. Presentations must be emailed to the Historic Preservation Unit two business days prior to the meetingEight copies are required for any documents, exhibits, or any other materials brought to the meeting.

Expected Processing Time

Complete applications for Major Work COAs usually take between 6-10 weeks to process. The time is dependent on the complexity of the project and whether the COA Committee requests additional information requiring a second hearing. This schedule includes the time from initial submission to the COA Committee meeting after the case is heard, which will be when the COA Committee officially adopts the minutes and decisions from the previous month’s meeting.

Often, Major Work COA applications are approved with conditions for further staff review of minor construction details prior to issuing the COA approval placard. The COA approval placard is issued after conditions are met or at the time the decision is adopted if there are no conditions.

Post-Hearing Next Steps

After the meeting where the case is heard and following the official adoption of the decision at the next month’s meeting, the applicant will receive a final case record. The case record includes the meeting minutes, the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, and the blue COA approval placard if all conditions are met.

Conditions of Approval

COA approval conditions generally fall into two categories: those required prior to issuance of the blue placard and those required prior to installation or construction. If a Major Work COA approval includes conditions to be completed prior to the issuance of permits, the applicant must act to meet these conditions before the COA approval placard is released. All other conditions requiring review and approval by staff should be submitted at the same time in one package rather than provided piecemeal. Submittal is made by email to the assigned case planner.

COA Approval Posting

The blue COA approval placard must be posted in public view on site while the approved work is being performed.

Paying Fees

Application fees are due at the time of submittal. Project review will not begin until the fee is paid.

  • Submittals are made using the Permit and Development Portal
  • The Development Fee Guide provides specific fees associated with the defined project type (minor work, major work, additions greater than 25% of building square footage, new building, demolition, after-the-fact).
  • The Customer Service Center processes payments or you may pay via the Permit Portal.

Payment types include Cash, MasterCard, Visa, or check made payable to the City of Raleigh.


Lead Department:
Planning and Development
Service Categories:
Historic Preservation