Landmarks List Frequently Asked Questions
The Landmarks Preservation Commission is responsible under County law for adopting a list of structures that "contribute[s] substantially to the architectural, or historical heritage of the county, state, or nation." Compilation of the Landmarks List from among the thousands of eligible properties is an on-going process.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the purpose of the Landmarks List?
2. What is the effect of being on the Preliminary or the Final Landmarks List?
3. Can Landmarks List structures be changed?
4. What guidelines are used by the LPC to reach its decisions?
5. Are there any financial advantages to designation as a landmark?
6. How are Landmarks designated?
7. What if the owner is opposed to listing or the structure is in poor condition?
8. Can landmark structures be demolished?
Baltimore County’s historic preservation law states its five basic purposes:
- To safeguard the heritage of the County as embodied and reflected in the structures and districts that have historical, architectural, archeological or cultural merit
- To stabilize and improve property values in the districts and in the County generally
- To foster civic pride in the beauty and noble accomplishments of the past
- To strengthen the economy of the County
- To promote the use of historic districts and landmarks for the education, pleasure, and welfare of the residents of the County.
Thus far, more than 3,000 of the 320,000+ properties in Baltimore County are known to have some degree of historic value. Perhaps more remain to be identified, especially in the County’s older neighborhoods and areas. Besides its responsibility under County law for compiling this basic inventory of historic properties, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is assigned the duty "to conduct public hearings to determine which [of these] structures may qualify to be included on the Preliminary Landmarks List."
The purposes of the Landmarks List, therefore, are to recognize – and to regulate – at least some of these remaining physical elements of the County’s heritage, thereby providing a system for:
- Encouragement for the structures to remain in productive use, either for their original purpose or through adaptation to a new use
- Protection against unwarranted demolition
- Review to assure that exterior changes are done in accordance with nationally-used standards for maintaining a property’s historic integrity
- Eligibility for possible rehabilitation tax credits.
The effect is the same at each stage. Being on the list makes the structure subject to the authority of the LPC to approve or deny any proposals for demolition or for changes to the structure’s "exterior architectural features." This effect begins from the time that the official sign is posted on the property giving notice that the LPC has scheduled a public hearing on the nomination of the structure to the list.
Yes, landmark structures can be changed. The LPC has no authority over the interior or use of any landmark structure. For the exteriors of these structures, the LPC can and customarily does approve changes, including additions, provided that they are in keeping with the major character-defining features that make the structure historically significant. The basic principle is to retain and rehabilitate – rather than needlessly replace – the building’s historic materials (especially windows, doors and siding) so that the building retains its physical integrity as a representative of itself and its time in history. The details of the evaluations will, of course, vary from building to building, but the Commission does try diligently to balance its responsibility for adhering to proper standards with accommodating the owners’ preferences.
As in most localities throughout the nation with local historic preservation programs, Baltimore County uses the publication issued by the National Park Service entitled The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. Projects submitted for approval by the Commission typically fall within the chapter of the publication dealing with "Standards for Rehabilitation."
Structures on the Final Landmarks List (as enacted by the County Council) may be eligible to receive a Baltimore County Historic Tax Credit for the rehabilitation of a historic property. Final landmark structures may also be eligible for state rehabilitation tax credits as well. Complete information about the state tax credit program is available at MHT’s web site.
Please note, in order to qualify for a rehabilitation tax credit, the Historic Environment Setting (HES) must be delineated. As of Bill 93-05, Landmark Structures also include a Historic Environmental Setting (HES). "Historic Environmental Setting" means the property or lot or portion thereof, as delineated by the Commission, which is historically, architecturally, archeologically, or culturally connected to the historic significance of a landmark structure.
The process has three principal stages: Nomination; notice and hearing by the LPC (and review by the Executive); and notice, hearing, and vote by the County Council.
The procedure begins with submittal of a completed Nomination Form (PDF). Technically, the law requires that the LPC shall select eligible structures for hearing, but anyone can submit a nomination for the Commission’s consideration. The nomination form can be printed from this website but cannot yet be submitted electronically. The form can be completed by typewriter or handwritten. The LPC’s staff can answer questions about the nomination process, and may be able to assist with identifying available information about historic properties, but generally will not have time to conduct original research or prepare nominations.
Completed nominations may be delivered or submitted by mail or fax to:
Landmarks Preservation Commission
Baltimore County Department
105 W. Chesapeake Avenue, Suite 101
Towson, Maryland 21204
The nomination will be placed on the agenda for a LPC hearing within 45 to 60 days from submittal to staff. Ordinarily, the LPC will accept the nomination if there appears to be any likelihood that the structure will meet at least one of the five landmark criteria (see below). A sign will be posted on the property announcing the hearing, and the owner will be notified by mail.
At the public hearing, the LPC will take testimony for and against the nomination. Before placing a structure on the Landmarks List, the Commission must specifically find that it contributes substantially to the architectural, or historical heritage of the county, state, or nation because of one or more of the following:
- It is associated with a personality, group, event, or series of events of historical importance
- It is a distinctive example of a particular architectural style or period
- It is a good example of the work or a noted architect or master builder
- It is a work of notable artistic merit
- It has yielded and may be likely to yield information or materials important in prehistory or history.
Upon finding that a structure qualifies, the LPC may vote to place it on the Preliminary List. The Commission’s decision is forwarded to the County Executive, who may review the action, but does not have the authority to veto or modify the LPC’s decision.
The Preliminary Landmarks List is then sent by the County Executive to the County Council. After at least 30 days written notice to the owner, and another public hearing, the Council may vote to place a structure "or portion of a structure" on the Final Landmarks List. If the County Council chooses not to place a structure on the Final Landmarks List, the structure loses its protected status 90 days after the County Council's public hearing.
The LPC’s role is solely to consider whether or not a structure qualifies on its historic merit, by reference to at least one of the five criteria in the law quoted above. The condition of a structure, the potential cost of its rehabilitation, or even an owner’s opposition to having the structure regulated, are not factors specified in the law for the Commission’s consideration. The LPC can, and occasionally does, place a historic structure on the Preliminary list even if the owner objects. Ultimately, the authority for placing structures on the Final Landmarks List rests with the elected County Council.
There are two possibilities for obtaining approval to demolish a landmark structure. The law provides a process for an owner to request removal of a structure from the Final Landmarks List (which is essentially the same as the process for adding to the List). Alternatively, an owner could simply request that the LPC approve demolition. Undoubtedly, the Commission would carefully weigh whether the overall benefit to society, if the demolition were allowed, would be more important than the loss of part of the County’s heritage.
Revised January 15, 2015
Revised April 6, 2016