What is a Certificate of Appropriateness?

A Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) is a document evidencing approval by the historic development commission to make a material change in the appearance of a designated historic property or of a property located within a designated historic district. View and download a COA form here.

What is considered a material change in appearance?

A material change in appearance means a change that will affect either the exterior architectural or environmental features of a historic property or any building, structure, site, object, landscape feature, or work of art within a historic district, such as:

(1) A reconstruction or alteration of the size, shape, or façade of a historic property, including relocation of any doors or windows or removal or alteration of any architectural features, details, or elements;

(2) Demolition or relocation of a historic structure;

(3) Commencement of excavation for construction purposes;

(4) A change in the location or advertising visible from the public right-of-way; or

(5) The erection, alteration, restoration, or removal of any building or other structure within a historic property or district, including walls, fences, steps, and pavements or other appurtenant features.

What is a historic district? How do I know if my property is in a historic district?

A historic district is a geographically definable area designated by the city council as a historic district. Selma has four historic districts: Icehouse Historic District, Riverview Historic District, Old Town Historic District, and Water Avenue Historic District. View a map of the historic districts or contact the City of Selma Planning & Development Department if you are unsure whether your property is within a designated historic district.

What is a historic property?

A historic property is an individual building, structure, site, object, or work of art including the adjacent area necessary for the proper appreciation thereof designated by the city council as a historic property. View the Alabama Historical Commission's map of historic properties or contact the City of Selma Planning & Development Department if you are unsure whether your property is a designated historic property.

What are design guidelines?

Design guidelines provide preservation and rehabilitation guidance to COA applicants who wish to make a material change to their historic property or a property within a historic district. These guidelines provide examples of both appropriate and inappropriate material changes in appearance, and the commission will assess all COA applications according to these guidelines. You can download a copy of the Selma Historic Development Commission’s Design Guidelines here.

Do I need COA approval to paint any originally unpainted surfaces?

Yes. The painting of originally unpainted surfaces shall require a COA. All applications for painting must be approved by the commission and receive a COA based on design guidelines.

Do I need COA approval for interior alterations to a historic property?

No. The commission shall not consider interior arrangement or use having no effect on exterior architectural features.

What should I include with my COA application?

In addition to a completed COA form, an application for certificate of appropriateness shall be accompanied by such drawings, photographs, plans, or other documentation as may be required by the commission. Applications involving demolition or relocation shall be accompanied by post-demolition or relocation plans for the site.

Where do I submit my completed COA?

Please submit your completed COA form and any additional attachments via email to preservation@selma-al.gov with the email subject heading "COA for (your address here)" for review. You may also drop off printed and completed forms to the Planning & Development Department at Selma City Hall, 222 Broad Street, Selma, AL 36701.

Under what circumstances will a COA application be approved?

The commission shall approve the application and issue a COA if it finds that the proposed material change(s) in the appearance would not have a substantial adverse effect on the aesthetic, historic, or architectural significance and value of the historic property of the historic district. In making this determination, the commission shall consider, in addition to any other pertinent factors, the historical and architectural value and significance, architectural style, general design arrangement, texture, and material of the architectural features of the other structures in the immediate neighborhood.

Why might my application be denied? What happens if it is denied?

The commission shall deny a certificate of appropriateness if it finds that the proposed material change(s) in appearance would have substantial adverse effects on the aesthetic, historic, or architectural significance and value of the historic property of the historic district. The commission shall not grant COA for demolition or relocation without reviewing at the same time the post-demolition or post-relocation plans for the site. Post-demolition plans, if approved by the commission, shall be fully implemented within twelve (12) months after demolition or COA shall be invalidated and subject to full legal fine as authorized in this division.

In the event the commission rejects an application, it shall state its reasons for doing so, and shall transmit a record of such actions and reasons, in writing, to the applicant. The commission may suggest alternative courses of action it thinks proper if it disapproves of the application submitted. The applicant, if he or she so desires, may make modifications to the plans and may resubmit the application at any time after doing so.

In cases where the application covers a material change in the appearance of a structure which would require the issuance of a building permit, the rejection of the application for a certificate of appropriateness by the commission shall be binding upon the building inspector or other administrative officer charged with issuing building permits and, in such cases, no building permit shall be issued.

Can I appeal a denied application?

Yes. Any person having a request for a COA denied by the commission may appeal such denial to the circuit court of Dallas County, Alabama.

I am only performing routine maintenance on my historic property. Do I need to complete a COA application? Can I request an expedited review process?

Yes and yes. The commission may adopt expedited review procedure for approval of routine maintenance to historic properties or to buildings or structures in historic districts. Routine maintenance to historic properties includes ordinary maintenance or repair of any exterior architectural or environmental feature in or on a historic property to correct deterioration, decay, overgrowth, or damage, or to sustain the existing form that does not involve a material change in design, material, or outer appearance. Expedited review procedure shall require submission of an application for a COA and waive requirements for consideration at a public meeting.

My COA was approved. When can I begin work? For how long is the COA certified?

A COA shall become void unless construction is commenced within three (3) months of date of issuance. COAs shall be issued for a period of six (6) months and are renewable.

Still have questions?

Please email preservation@selma-al.gov