10 Tips for Navigating the Certificate of Appropriateness Process in City of Dallas Landmark Districts

Certificate of Appropriateness Application
Certificate of Appropriateness (CA)

If you live in or own property in a Dallas Landmark District (a local designation) there are preservation guidelines that control changes made to properties within the district. These guidelines were created  to protect the architecture that makes the historic district so special, and to protect the investment of the owners and residents of the district.

A Certificate of Appropriateness (CA) is required before exterior work can begin on all properties within Dallas Landmark Districts to ensure that the changes proposed will follow the preservation guidelines. For some, the CA application process can seem like daunting process. Below are ten tips that will help your CA application process go as smoothly as possible. 

Click here if you are unsure if you live in a Dallas Landmark historic district.

Tip #1: Read the Frequently Asked Questions and Steps

All renovation projects are different, so it is best for you to read through our materials as soon as you know you will need a CA to get an understanding of what the process looks like and what materials may be expected for your application. Read our Frequently Asked Questions for an overview of the process and answers to the questions most people have when they are just starting out. Our website also has a step-by-step description of the CA process on our website.

Tip #2: Read the preservation guidelines for your district

Each district has an ordinance that governs exterior work within it, and the guidelines found in the ordinance were created and voted on by residents of the district.  Check the ordinance for your district first to make sure that the work you are proposing is allowed for your historic district. You can find them by clicking on your historic district on our website and opening the link for the ordinance.

Tip #3: Assume that a Certificate of Appropriateness (CA) is required for all exterior work and site improvements

Previous approval in the form of a CA or CD must be obtained for work on all structures or sites in a Landmark district – including non-contributing structures, work that occurs on any façade of a structure (including the rear), foundation repair, and major landscaping changes. There are very few exceptions. If you are unsure, contact the Staff member for your district to verify if the work you are doing will require a CA. They will also verify if the application can be handled as Routine Maintenance or require full Landmark Commission review. Please note that Historic Preservation staff makes the final determination on if work qualifies as Routine Maintenance.

Tip #4: Download the Certificate of Appropriateness Application from our website for the most up-to-date version

The Certificate of Appropriateness application is available for download directly from our website. Instructions for completing the application and a checklist of items that you are required to submit are included in the packet. There are several outdated versions of our application still circulated by outside groups, so getting it from the source ensures that you are working with our latest and greatest version.

Tip #5: Listing your proposed work

There is a space for proposed work on the front of the application. List all the work you are doing as concisely as possible. The front of the application is not the place for lengthy explanations – you can include that on an attached page if necessary. If your project is a major renovation, even a concise list may be long. Use an extra sheet if necessary to continue your list, but never leave the proposed work section blank or write “see attached.”

Example 1:  If you are replacing your roof shingles and doing some siding repairs, you could write “replace shingles with [brand and color name]; replace 20% of siding on house and garage with [siding type] to match existing.”

Tip #6: Completing Your Application with Required Submittal Items

Almost every type of work a homeowner may propose has a corresponding checklist on the application. This includes all types of renovation, siding and roof repairs, foundation repair, fences and landscaping, painting, new construction, and more. All proposed work, including Routine Maintenance, requires submittal items so do not skip it or submit your application cover with no documentation. Incomplete applications are not accepted. If you are unsure of which checklist category to follow, contact the appropriate staff member for clarification.

Tip #7: Submitting Your Application

You can submit your application to the appropriate staff member via email (preferred) or in person (Dallas City Hall at 1500 Marilla Street in room 5BN). Applications via US Mail are frequently delivered to us late, so it is not recommended. We do not accept applications via fax. If you would like to speak with the district’s staff member when you drop off your application, please make an appointment in advance with that staff member to make sure they are available. NOTE: All applicants proposing a major renovation project or new construction must meet with the preservation staff member for that district in advance of their application submission.

Tip #8: Attend Your Meetings

If your application does not qualify for Routine Maintenance and requires Landmark review, there will be two meetings held for your application. The first is the Task Force meeting where a panel of neighborhood residents and professionals will make a recommendation for your proposal(s). The second meeting is the Landmark Commission hearing where a final decision on your application will be made. You are not required to attend either meeting, but it is strongly recommended that you do so. Your application will be discussed, and it is your responsibility to defend the proposals you are requesting and answer any questions that may arise. Deadlines and meeting dates are known up to a year in advance.

Tip #9: CA Issuance

If your application was processed as Routine Maintenance, your CA will take approximately 7-10 business days to complete. If your application required Landmark review and you receive an approval, your CA will be sent to you via email within 10 days of the Landmark Commission hearing. Once you have received your CA approval(s), visit Building Inspection to obtain a master permit if one is required. Before you start work, post your CA in a visible location on the front of your house.

Tip #10: In the event of a Denial or Denial without Prejudice

Applicants do sometimes receive a Denial or Denial without Prejudice from Landmark Commission. Staff makes every effort to warn applicants if their proposals are likely to generate discussion or be controversial; however, we do not always know beforehand what questions or concerns Landmark Commissioners may bring up during the public hearing. Therefore, it is very important for you to attend the public hearing. If you receive a Denial or Denial without Prejudice, staff will issue the results to you and let you know your next steps within 10 days after the public hearing.

We hope these tips assist you in your application process for a Certificate of Appropriateness and, as always, please contact us with any questions you may have.