Certificate of Appropriateness-Major Works


A certificate of appropriateness (COA) is required for exterior alterations to properties located within the city's local historic districts and historic overlays to ensure compatibility with the historic character of the district. Approval is based on the Wilmington Design Guidelines for Historic Districts and Landmarks(PDF, 9MB). The design standards do not impose a particular architectural style, but encourage compatible design and congruity. 

The Historic Preservation Commission reviews all proposed major changes to the exterior of properties, structures, new construction, signage, and changes to the surrounding grounds, including landscaping pursuant to Section 18-597 of the Land Development Code


The following alterations require Historic Preservation Commission approval:

  • Major Landscaping: Removal of five or more trees and/or change in topography
  • Fences and Walls: Fences less than 3 feet; fences on corner properties; fences over 6 feet in height
  • Swimming Pool: Construction of a new pool
  • Roofs: Changing roofing materials, structural changes, and chimney removals
  • Windows and Doors: Installation of new windows and doors other than identical replacement; alteration to existing
  • Masonry: Painting of brickwork; addition of new masonry features such as chimneys, cornices, etc.
  • Exterior Walls and Decorative Woodwork: Removal or addition of features other than identical replacement materials & design
  • Porches and Entrances: Major design changes or removing an original door
  • Architectural Metals: Addition of new metal features or alteration to existing
  • New Construction: Residential, commercial, and/or accessory structures (including garages)
  • Additions: Residential and commercial
  • Storefronts: Addition of new or alteration to existing
  • Relocation: Buildings or structures
  • Demolition: Primary buildings and accessory structures


Step 1.Pre-Application

A pre-application meeting is required prior to submission of a major works application. The purpose of the pre-application meeting is to provide an overview of the process and general guidance on the proposed alterations. Pre-application meetings may be scheduled by emailing the Historic Preservation team or calling 910.254.0900.

Step 2.Historic Preservation Commission Public Hearing

As Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) decisions are quasi-judicial in nature, the HPC holds evidentiary hearings on Certificate of Appropriateness requests. Evidentiary hearings differ from other public hearings in the following ways:

  • Ex parte communications between an applicant or an affected party and members of the HPC are prohibited. If such communications occur, they must be disclosed at the beginning of the hearing.
  • Commission members cannot participate in the hearing or vote on the application in a manner that would violate affected persons' constitutional rights to an impartial decision maker.
  • All persons presenting evidence must do so under oath.
  • All persons shall offer only competent, material and substantial evidence in their presentation. Competence shall be determined by the commission in its decision.
  • All persons with standing (as determined by the commission) shall have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and inspect any evidence presented.
  • All parties or persons with standing shall have the opportunity to offer competent evidence in explanation or rebuttal to objecting participants.

Step 3.Certificate of Appropriateness (COA)

If the application is approved, a Certificate of Appropriateness will be issued. All work must be performed in accordance with the approved COA unless a revision is submitted and approved. Work performed that is not consistent with an approved COA may result in a requirement to reverse the work and/or civil penalties.


Step 1.Applications Accepted Monthly

Major works applications are accepted on a monthly basis according to the Historic Preservation Commission schedule. Applications received after the established deadline will be included with the following month's review cycle submissions.

Electronic Submissions

Applications may be submitted electronically, but only after meeting with the Historic Preservation team

Step 2.Application Components

All application components (e.g. application, information required for each alteration type , etc.) must be submitted individually and named accordingly.

Step 3.Large Files

Please contact the Historic Preservation team to make arrangements for files that exceed email limits.

Step 4.Professional Seals

Professional seals (engineers, land surveyors, architects, etc) on digital plans must be redacted from digital copies submitted to the city for review. Please be sure to mark, strike through, or otherwise conceal any professional seal located on your digital (re)submittals (e.g., PDF).



Step 1.Payment Timing

Application fees(PDF, 440KB) must be paid in full prior to review of an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness.

Step 2.Fee Amount

Application fees are based on the estimated cost of the project/proposed improvements as shown below. Fees for applications submitted for work that has already been started or completed (also known as retroactive or After the Fact) include the base fee noted below plus $100.

  • $17,999 or less: $0
  • $18,000-$24,999: $20
  • $25,000-$49,999: $25
  • $50,000-$99,999: $35
  • $100,000-$499,000: $50
  • $500,000 and more: $100

*A mailed notice fee of $0.85/notice shall apply to all applications received on or after July 1, 2024. This fee will be determined during the review process and a separate invoice issued. The supplemental fee must be paid prior to a hearing on the application.

Payment Options

If you plan to pay in advance, planning staff must first notify the collections department to enable acceptance of payments.

Payment by Phone (910. 343.4745)

  • 8 am to 5 pm (Monday through Friday except for holidays)
  • Limited to VISA and MasterCard payments.

Payment in Person

  • 8 am to 5 pm (Monday through Friday except for holidays)
  • Billing & Collections Office
    Skyline Center
    929 North Front Street, 1st Floor

Payment by Mail

  • Please include invoice number or account number
  • Regular Mail
    City of Wilmington Collections
    PO Box 1810
    Wilmington, NC 28402
  • Express Mail
    City of Wilmington Collections

    929 North Front Street, 1st Floor
    Wilmington, NC 28401