The issue of historic preservation is governed by myriad federal, state and local laws. Generally speaking, the purpose of preservation laws is to encourage the recognition of historic resources, as well as the preservation of those resources. On the state and local levels, historic preservation controls may be enacted subject to the applicable constitutional constraints.
The National Preservation Act of 1966, a federal law, provides for the creation of state historic preservation offices. Many states have enacted specific laws governing the implementation of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 on the state level.
For example, the Annotated Code of Maryland, art. 66B, ¤8.01(b) (2003) provides as follows:
It is a public purpose in this State to preserve sites, structures, and districts of historic, archeological, or architectural significance and their appurtenances and environmental settings.
The laws vary widely from state to state and must be consulted individually for details.
If delegated the authority by a state law or state constitution, local governments may also enact historic preservation controls. Here again, local enactments vary widely. On the local level, historic preservation issues are most often addressed by way of historic preservation ordinances. Generally speaking, ordinances govern private action.
An example of a local preservation ordinance is found in the Baltimore County (Maryland) Code ¤ 32-7-102, which provides:
In providing for the protection, enhancement, and perpetuation of those structures and districts of historical, architectural, archeological, or cultural merit, the following objectives are sought:
(1) To safeguard the heritage of the county as embodied and reflected in the structures and districts;
(2) To stabilize and improve property values in the districts in the county generally;
(3) To foster civic pride in the beauty and noble accomplishments of the past;
(4) To strengthen the economy of the county; and
(5) To promote the use of historic districts and landmarks for the education, pleasure, and welfare of the residents of the county.
For more information of interest to historic homeowners on historic preservation and related issues, contact your local historic preservation resource or:
The National Trust for Historic Preservation
1785 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Telephone: (202) 588-6035