Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Certificate of Appropriateness (CofA)
A Certificate of Appropriateness is required for all buildings or structures within the Old Lyme Historic District if they are to be erected, altered, removed or demolished. Such a certificate is necessary whether or not a building permit is required. This protects the integrity of the Historic District.
- Also see "What is a Certificate of Appropriateness". A Certificate of Appropriateness (CofA) is required before exterior structures in the Old Lyme Historic District (HD) are built or modified if any portion of them is visible from Lyme Street or another public way. Structures include new buildings, building additions, pools/spas, driveways, walkways, parking lots, all signs, fences, roofing, walls, windows, living hedges, exterior lighting, HVAC units, generators, propane tanks, exterior stairs or ramps, shutters, etc.
- A CofA is also required before a building is demolished.
- The Historic District Commission (HDC) is required to approve or deny a CofA following submission of a CofA application, payment of the required fee, and a public hearing.
- If you are proposing a significant project, we urge you to discuss your plans with the HDC at one of its regular meetings before filing an application. The HDC meets at 9:00 a.m. on the first Monday of every month except August. If the first Monday is a holiday, the HDC will meet on the second Monday.
- For all projects, please leave enough time for any discussions and completion of a CofA hearing before you order material or begin work. Please also leave enough time to obtain required approvals for your project from other town or regional boards, departments, or commissions. The HDC must approve a CofA application before you seek required approvals from the Zoning Commission, the Building Department, the Tree Commission, or other town or regional boards, departments, or commissions.
- For more information, consult the Historic District Handbook, or visit https://www.oldlyme-ct.gov/historic-district-commission
If your project involves repairing or replacing an existing structure with a structure identical in all respects (e.g., location, size, height, appearance, and material), file a “Like for Like” form before work is undertaken, rather than a CofA application. No fee is due and no hearing is required with a “Like for Like” application.
Interior work does not require a CofA or “Like for Like” form.
An application form can be obtained from the Planning Commission's office at Town Hall, 52 Lyme Street, or downloaded from the Town's website (select "Boards and Commissions" and then "Historic District Commission").
The Commission has sixty-five (65) days from the date the formal application is received in which to render its decision, although in practice most questions are resolved well before that.
The fee is $40 for any project and is waived for non-profit organizations.
Most applications the Historic District Commission is asked to consider may be reduced to a single question: Is a given action likely to enhance - or at least preserve - the qualities that identify Old Lyme and set it apart from other Connecticut towns? If, in the opinion of a majority of the Commission, the answer appears to be "No” then the application is considered "inappropriate" and will be rejected. If the answer appears to be "Yes" then the application is considered to be "appropriate" and will be approved. In considering an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness, the Commission has no requirements as to specific architectural form or style and it has no mandate to favor the past over the present. The Commission recognizes that change is inevitable and, in many cases, desirable, and it asks only that new structures or artifacts introduced into the Historic District and all changes to structures already existing, be appropriate, be competently designed and show respect both for their immediate neighbors and for the District as a whole.
Any person aggrieved by any decision of the Commission may appeal to the Superior Court within fifteen days of receiving written notification of the decision.
What is a Legal Notice?
All Certificates of Appropriateness (CofA) require a Public Hearing. A Public Hearing enables neighbors and others to express their views and comments on a proposed exterior alteration. Legal notices are to be prepared for Public Hearings and publicized in a newspaper in the area not more than 15 or less than 5 days before a Public Hearing.
The Historic District Commission publishes Legal Notices in the New London Day not more than 15 or less than 5 days before a Public Hearing, which take place during a regular Historic District Commission meeting. Legal Notices are also published on the Town's website and sent out via regular mail to abutting neighbors.
Public hearings are open for the public to attend. Letters may be sent in advance to the Historic District Commission, 52 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT 06371 or emailed to the commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Application materials are available for inspection at the time of the Historic District Commission hearing.
The Old Lyme Historic District
What is the Old Lyme Historic District?
The Historic District is basically "Lyme Street" in Old Lyme. It runs from Number 1 McCurdy Road at the Town Green on the south end of Lyme Street to the Town Green at the north end, forking left to Number 2 Sill Lane and ending at Rose Lane off the Boston Post Road.
The Historic District Commission has information on some properties in the District. Let us know your interest and we will see if we can help.
The Old Lyme Historic District Commission has a plaque program to acknowledge historic buildings in the District. Buildings constructed prior to the outbreak of World War II in 1939 are eligible. The 16-inch x 13-inch white oval plaques contain the name of the original owner or the structure's purpose (Grange Hall, etc.) and the approximate date of construction. An Historic Plaque application may be obtained from the OLHDC by calling 434-1605 or from the HDC's web page. Check with the Historic District Commission for price information.
Historic District Commission, HDC
Call Town Hall at (860) 434-1605, or contact us through email.
The Commission is composed of eight residents of Old Lyme appointed by the Town's Board of Selectmen. Current member list can be viewed on the Town's website.
Yes the Historic District Commission's meetings are open to the public. Regular meetings are held at the Old Lyme Memorial Town Hall in the Main Conference Room, the first Monday of each month (second Monday if the first Monday is a holiday) at 9 am. Meeting agendas are posted on the Town's website and in Town Hall.
Guidelines for Certificate of Appropriateness (CofA) and “Like for Like”
- No building or structure within the Historic District may be erected, altered, removed, or demolished until a Certificate of Appropriateness has been granted by the Historic District Commission.
- The CofA is necessary whether or not a building permit is required. There are exceptions, known as "Like for Like." All CofA applications require a public hearing with a legal notice published in a local newspaper.
A CofA is required for the following as outlined in the Historic District Handbook. The Handbook may be downloaded from the link above or obtained at Town Hall.
- Fences, stone walls, living hedge, walkways, driveways and parking areas, benches and planters
- Exterior lighting
- Oil and propane tanks, generators, and /HVAC Units - must be screened with plantings, shrubs, or lattice
- New buildings, demolition, additions, or exterior alteration of a building (siding, windows, etc.)
- Roof replacement if there is a change in materials
- Sculpture, skylights, TV dishes, solar panels, swimming pools/spas
- Handicapped access ramps
- You can obtain a CofA application form from the Building Department at Town Hall or download it from the Forms section of the HDC Web page. The form may be dropped off at Town Hall or mailed. You may also send it to the HDC.
- Upon receiving a formal CofA application, the HDC will schedule a public hearing and publish a legal notice of the hearing in a local newspaper. To permit time for publication, all applications must be received at Town Hall 3 weeks prior to the HDC meeting date.
- Relevant supporting material should include: dimensioned scale drawings, specifications, photographs of the existing site, a site plan, and samples or descriptions of materials.
- The HDC has 65 days from the date that a formal application is received in which to render its decision. Please leave enough time to obtain required approvals for your project from other town or regional boards, departments, or commissions. The HDC must approve a CofA application before you seek required approvals from the Zoning Commission, the Building Department, the Tree Commission, or other town or regional boards, departments, or commissions.
- A CofA is not required for paint colors, or for repair or replacement of previously existing features when the new is the same as the old with respect to form, size, material, and lettering on signs (Like for Like). If this applies to your project, please fill out the "Like for Like" form (PDF) and drop it off at Town Hall or mail or email it to the HDC. Additional details may be found in the Historic District Handbook. Please send a message to the Commission with any questions or concerns to the Historic District Commission contact form.