Information / Summary of BAR

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Architectural Details on the Downtown MallAuthority: See Ch. 34, Sec. 34-271 et. seq. of the City Code: Historical Preservation and Architectural Design Control Overlay (ADC) Districts, available in Municode, for exact requirements.  A summary is offered below.  The State enabling legislation for both historic districts and entrance corridors are provided for in the same brief section of the VA Code Sec. 15.2-2306.

The City Board of Architectural Review is responsible for reviewing all exterior changes in local historic overlay districts.  [The City also has Entrance Corridor design review, which is conducted by the Planning Commission, acting Entrance Corridor Review Board or ERB.] 

The BAR addresses both preservation and design issues (rehabilitations, additions, new construction and demolitions) in both ADC Districts and on Individually Protected Properties, whereas EC review includes only design review.

Current districts: Charlottesville currently has eight Historical Preservation and Architectural Design Control Districts: Downtown; North Downtown; Ridge Street; West Main Street; Wertland Street; the Corner; Oakhurst-Gildersleeve neighborhood; and Rugby Rd - University Corner- Venable Neighborhood; and 66 additional Individually Protected Properties outside the major districts.

Designation of districts: City Council designates districts and properties (through a rezoning procedure), after considering recommendations of the Planning Commission and Board of Architectural Review. 

BAR composition:  9 members: 2 licensed architects, 1 Planning Commission liaison, 2 commercial property or business owners in ADC, 1 owner of residential property in or resident of ADC, 2 substantial background in history or preservation and 1 landscape architect or a licensed contractor.

Certificate of Appropriateness (COA): required for (1) Any exterior changes within an ADC district or any individually protected property, including construction, reconstruction, alteration, restoration; and (2) Demolishing, moving, removing or encapsulating a contributing structure located in a historic overlay district or any individually protected property.

Exclusions: (1) interior work; (2) maintenance or repair using identical design, materials and color; and (3) construction, reconstruction, alteration or demolition that the city officers certify as required for public safety.

Note: Replacement of roofing, siding, windows and doors all require BAR approval, regardless of whether they require a building permit.  Replacing a roof with similar material is administrative (asphalt shingle to asphalt shingle; tin to tin or copper; slate to slate)

Administrative COA approvals: Approved tax credit projects; repainting a different color; adding or deleting awnings, canopies, storm windows and doors, gutters, and similar appurtenances; other structural changes that do not require a building permit; signs if the BAR is not reviewing the project otherwise.

Criteria, Standards and Guidelines: In considering a particular application the BAR shall approve the application unless it finds:

  • That the proposal does not meet specific standards set forth within this division or applicable provisions of the Design Guidelines; and

  • The proposal is incompatible with the historic, cultural or architectural character of the district in which the property is located or the protected property that is the subject of the application.

The ordinance contains Standards for review of construction and alterations, and Standards for demolitions.  The City also has a set of published Design Guidelines that are available on the BAR website.

Other important sections of the ordinance:

  • Maintenance and repair required (prevents "demolition by neglect")
  • Civil penalties (twice the fair market value of the building at the time of demolition, razing or moving without BAR or City Council approval)
  • Time limit: COA is good for one year; then the applicant may request a one-year extension for reasonable cause shown.


  • Make application for COA 3 weeks before the monthly scheduled BAR meeting. 
  • Application fee: $375 for new construction; $125 for other
  • Submit supporting materials (elevations, floor plans, photos, sections, etc.)
  • Staff makes site visit, reviews survey if historic, looks at context.  The application is reviewed based on ordinance criteria, standards, and design guidelines.
  • Staff prepares staff report with recommendation.  A packet of all reports and materials are delivered to BAR members 7-10 days before meeting.
  • Abutting owners must be notified of COA applications.
  • BAR meeting - staff report presented, applicant makes presentation, questions from BAR, questions and comments from public, then BAR discusses and votes.
  • BAR must act within 45 days (85 days with the applicant’s consent), or it is automatically approved.
  • If BAR denies, they must state reason. 

Appeals: Any aggrieved person may appeal BAR’s decision to City Council within 10 working days. Applicant may appeal City Council’s decision to Circuit Court within 30 days.

Demolitions: An applicant has the right under state law to demolish a building if certain conditions are met:  If denied approval by the BAR and, on appeal, by Council, then the applicant must offer the property for sale (usually for one year) at a price reasonably related to fair market value.  If no bona fide offers are made during the applicable sale period, the applicant is then entitled to a COA to demolish the building.