HISTORICAL ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD HARB

 

Norristown has two local historic districts that cover a large portion of Norristown. If your property is located in one of these two districts, your project will have to go before the Norristown Historical and Architectural Review Board (HARB) for review PRIOR to having a construction permit issued for exterior work only. If your project is limited to the interior of your building and does not affect the exterior of the building, a review by the HARB is not required.

The HARB’s job is to ensure that any changes to the built environment that can be seen from a public street are historically appropriate and consistent with the other buildings in the surrounding neighborhood. For example, a modern glass and steel building would not be appropriate in the context of a Victorian neighborhood. Nor would covering a brick building in stucco or siding be appropriate. The HARB will help guide you to ensure that the improvements you want to make to the exterior of your building fit in with the historic character of the district.

Here is how the process works:

· When you apply for a construction permit, staff at the Norristown Code Enforcement Department will review your project to determine whether a HARB review is required. It is a good idea to contact the department just as you are beginning to plan your project to ask if a HARB review will be needed. This way you can plan your project accordingly.

· If a HARB review is necessary, staff will assist you in completing the application and let you know what additional materials will be required to be submitted along with the application.

· You will be scheduled to appear before the HARB at their next available monthly meeting. Applications received less than 10 days prior to the next meeting will be scheduled for the following month.

· At the HARB meeting you will be provided time to present your project to the board. The meetings are usually informal. The board members may have questions and suggestions for you to consider. If the board approves your project, they will make a recommendation to the Norristown Municipal Council that you be issued a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) at the next Council meeting. Once the Council approves the COA, you can move forward with the construction permit process.

The Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB) is a public advisory body created by state and local laws. The HARB helps to protect the architectural and cultural heritage within the Norristown Local Historic District by considering the effects of proposed exterior changes to building and structures within the district and commenting on their appropriateness.  SEE HARB MAP HERE.

The HARB reviews all proposed exterior changes to buildings and structures that are visible from a public street, sidewalk, or way within the district. The HARB reviews the proposal to determine whether it is appropriate to the individual property and the district as a whole in regard to architectural style, general design, arrangement, location, and materials. The HARB does not review any interior changes unless they affect the exterior appearance of the building.

To have your Certificate of Appropriateness (CGA) application reviewed by HARB, it must be submitted with the appropriate materials to the Code Enforcement Department by 4:30 P.M. ten calendar days prior to the HARB meeting at which the application is to be reviewed. HARB meetings typically occur the fourth Wednesday of each month. Please call 610-270-0441 to confirm the next meeting date.

Please note the HARB review is necessary, but not sufficient for the granting of a building permit. Each project may also be subject to review for compliance with zoning, building, and safety codes. The applicant must obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) as well as all necessary permits prior to proceeding with any work.  


HARB Q & A:


Q. What is the HARB?

A. HARB (Historical Architectural Review Board) is an advisory body created by state and local laws to regulate changes to buildings within the nationally-designated Norristown Historic Districts. The HARB's job is to review proposals for alterations to the exteriors of the buildings located with the HARB district as well as new construction and demolition. HARB reviews this work to protect and preserve the architectural and historical character of Norristown.

Q. How do I know if I have to submit an application to the HARB?

A. Refer to the HARB map to determine if your property is located within the National Register Districts boundaries. If so any exterior work requiring a permit that will be visible from a public street must be reviewed. This includes all buildings on the parcel visible from the street (but not from an alley). The rear of buildings is not normally covered by the HARB, unless the building is on a corner, next to vacant corner lot, or the rear faces another street. Refer to the Norristown steet map to determine whether the rear faces an alley or a street.
The HARB is especially concerned with changes to the permanent architectural fabric of the streetscape. Thus, substantial changes to large scale building components, such as stuccoing, or applying siding over brick, or to visually important elements, such as doors, windows, or cornices or porches, will be carefully looked at.

Q. What is NOT covered by the HARB?

A. All interior work, all work not visible from the street, all work not requiring a permit (which includes most routine maintenance), paint over wood (Norristown’s HARB, unlike many town’s, does not regulate such paint colors, but does regulate permanent colors, such as roofing or siding colors), landscaping, excavation, fences, sidewalks, residential lighting, or small things added to the façade (e.g. mailboxes, house numbers, TV antennas, satellite dishes (at least currently), utility meters, porch furniture, flower boxes, or seasonal decorations).

Q. What are the HARB A & B Zones?

A. The National Register Historic Districts have each been divided into A and B Zones. (See HARB map). The A Zone is more important visually and historically, consisting of major or “gateway” streets, or streets with stretches of grand mansions, or exceptionally well preserved or historic streetscapes. The A zone is subject to stricter regulations than the B zone.


Q. Is there a fee for appearing before the HARB?

A. There is no fee. However, to keep administrative costs low, the applicant is responsible for making copies of the application and supplying the photos or other materials required, such as drawings or shingle samples.
The application and instructions can be found here.


Q. Must I appear before the HARB?

A. It’s generally best that the building or business owner appear before the HARB, optionally with the contractor. The HARB will have questions which can often only be answered by the owner. Also, the HARB might present various alternatives which only the owner can, or will, agree to. If there is no one present who can effectively present the owner’s case, the HARB might have to make assumptions leading to a decision the owner might be unhappy with.

In certain routine cases, for buildings in the B zone, the preservation consultant in the Code Enforcement Office (where you get the permit) after visiting the building, might issue an “administrative approval”. This means that the permit can be issued pre-emptively, before the HARB meeting, and that the consultant will represent the owner at the HARB meeting. In these cases, neither the owner nor the contractor need appear.

 

Q. When does the HARB meet?

A. The HARB usually meets on the 4th Wednesday of each month, except when holidays or weather interfere. Here is the HARB meeting schedule.
Meetings are at 7:00PM in Council Chambers at Norristown’s Municipal Hall.
Note that all applications materials must be submitted 2 weeks before the meeting date

 

IMPORTANT DOWNLOADS:

 

HARB Application

Building & Code Enforcement

 

Municipality of Norristown
235 East Airy Street
Norristown, PA 19401

Phone: 610-272-8080
Fax: 610-275-0687

info@norristown.org


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