Design Review

Historic Preservation staff reviews all permit applications for individually designated properties and properties located in a historic district. This process is designed to protect the County’s cultural and architectural history.

Design Review

To preserve and protect the integrity of Frederick County’s historical, architectural, and cultural treasures, the Frederick County Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and Historic Preservation staff review exterior work, new construction, and demolition on locally designated properties or properties in a historic district. Design review ensures that proposed projects preserve key historic features and are compatible with the look and feel of historic districts and individually designated properties.

When conducting design review of proposed changes, the HPC and Historic Preservation staff follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the treatment of historic properties as well as the applicable design guidelines. Once a project has been reviewed and approved, a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) is issued. The COA must be submitted with the subsequent, applicable building and/or zoning permit applications. 

Routine Maintenance

Routine maintenance does not require design review and therefore a COA is not required. Please review the Routine Maintenance List for a list of activities considered routine maintenance.

Project Specific Information

The type of construction work you are doing determines whether you must undergo design review before you begin. The following projects are subject to design review:

  • Additions
  • Fences, Retaining Walls, Site Work
  • Garages
  • Major Alterations to character-defining features
  • New Construction
  • Roofing
  • Signage
  • Solar Panels
  • Window and Door Replacement

Is your project eligible for a quick review?

Certain projects that introduce little to no visible change to a historic structure or property may be subject to administrative approval. Administrative approvals are processed within five business days once the application is determined complete.

Administrative approvals may be issued by Historic Preservation staff providing that the applicable design guidelines and standards are met. Exterior features may include:

  • Addition of rear porches
  • Replacing windows and doors on non-contributing structures
  • New accessory structures less than 250 square feet
  • Reroofing (no change in materials, color, or installation pattern)
  • Solar panels not on visible street facing or dominate elevations
  • New gutters and downspouts with a proposed change in style
  • Repairing or replacing architectural details beyond routine maintenance (no change in materials, installation, patterns)

For a complete list, review the Administrative Approval Guidelines.

Required Documents

Design review applications must adequately describe the project and provide sufficient information to evaluate the proposal. Documentation must clearly illustrate the existing conditions as well as any proposed work.

All applications must include the following information:

  • Application
  • Photos of existing conditions showing area of proposed work and surrounding areas. They must be in color; labeled with direction and orientation; no smaller than 4” x 6” in size or between 1024 x 768 pixels and 1280 x 960 pixels); and arranged on one or more sheets in PDF or Word format.
  • Site Plan must be dimensioned and scaled and include street address, north arrow, drawn to a measurable scale, locations of streets, property lines, all existing structures, including accessory structures, location of proposed addition or new construction/feature, and existing and proposed locations for mechanical equipment.

Supplemental information that may need to be included depending upon the project may include:

  • Elevation Drawings of each existing and proposed elevation that includes overall dimensions and scale; proposed overall height of existing and proposed; proposed floor to ceiling heights; proposed window and door dimensions (note any proposed size alterations of any existing windows or doors); label on all windows and doors whether it is to be replaced or restored; porches/awnings/shifts in massing (including protrusions or indentions and other façade detail dimensions); note all existing and proposed exterior materials; enlarged detail drawings of eaves, overhangs, porches or other unique features; enlarged elevations and sections for each distinct window type and location, showing the full window in the wall assembly, including head, jamb, sill, muntins, and other details/profile information, and indicating the amount the window is recessed in the wall plane; window and door schedule including material size, and operation; elevation and detail drawings of balconies, railings, awnings, fencing, and other proposed building or site features; and location of all new vents, louvers, electrical boxes, lighting, etc.
  • Materials could include photos of samples of all exterior materials with labels for each building component indicating material and finish; manufacturer cut sheets for each product; reference materials and numbers from samples onto elevation sheets and site plans as needed to clarify which materials correlate to which building component; for glass, provide transparency ratings and visible light reflectance (clear glass with a .7 or higher visible transmittance rating with exterior visible light reflectance under 20% is preferred)
  • Landscape plans and elevations should include curbs; sidewalks and walkways; utility locations; elevations; materials; information on lighting; information on hardscape, accessory structures (pergolas, sheds, etc.), and any structural elements introduced into the landscape.
  • Roof Plan (Solar Projects Only) must include existing and proposed roof plans that include north arrow; scale drawn to a measurable scale; major dimensions of the building(s) on which the solar panels will be installed; existing roof materials; proposed arrangement of solar panels; dimensions of panels and distance from the roof edge(s) and eaves; indication of front 1/3 and rear 2/3 of main roof of the building on which solar panels will be installed; and major roof protrusions (chimneys, mechanical vents, skylights)

Please coordinate with staff to determine if additional information is needed due to the unique circumstances of your project. 

Ready to Apply?

Pre-Application Review Meeting

The following projects require a pre-application meeting:

  • Additions of more than 250 square feet 
  • New construction
  • Historic window and door replacements
  • Demolition of locally designated properties

Email plans / drawings / sketches that adequately depict the project, and color photos of existing conditions to

Application and Required Documents

Download and complete the appropriate application and gather all required documents for your specific project.

Submit Application by Email

Email your application and supporting documents to Your email should include two attachments:

  • PDF with the completed application: “yourname-app.pdf”
  • PDF that combines all supporting materials: “yourname-app-materials.pdf”

NOTE: All materials submitted with your application become the property of the County. The materials are part of public record, can be used in a public meeting, and cannot be returned.

Next Steps: Review and Approval

Staff Review, Revision, and HPC Presentation

Admin Review (for eligible projects):

  1. Historic Preservation staff will evaluate the completeness of your application. If necessary, staff will provide comments or request revisions.
  2. If an application is found to be complete and meets the design guidelines, Historic Preservation staff will issue an approval within a few business days. Projects that are approved will be issued a certificate of appropriateness.
  3. If a project cannot be approved administratively, Historic Preservation staff will provide comments as to how it may be revised to meet the design guidelines or will let you know if it must be reviewed by the HPC.

Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) Review: 

The Historic Preservation Commission meets the first Wednesday of the month.

  1. Your application must be submitted no later than 4 p.m. at least four weeks prior to the meeting date. Find HPC meeting submission dates and deadlines on the HPC page.
  2. Upon receipt of an application, Historic Preservation staff will evaluate the completeness of your application and perform a preliminary design guideline evaluation. If necessary, staff will return the submittal with comments for revisions.
  3. Once the submittal is deemed complete, Historic Preservation staff will add the project to an HPC meeting agenda and prepare a staff report, which will include a recommendation to approve, approve with conditions, continue, or deny the project.
  4. The applicant may not make any changes to the project’s design once the project is deemed complete and Historic Preservation staff has prepared the staff report.
  5. At least one week prior to the HPC meeting, Historic Preservation staff will provide the staff report to the application in addition to information about what to expect at the HPC meeting.
  6. HPC review sill result in one of the following:
    1. Approved – Historic Preservation staff will issue a certificate of appropriateness within a few business days.
    2. Approved with conditions – projects must submit the requested adjustments to the final construction drawings to landmark staff before a certificate of appropriateness will be issued.
    3. Continued – projects must provide additional information as requested by the HPC and must return to the HPC for approval.
    4. Denied – projects must go before the HPC again with a revised submittal that addresses the HPC’s comments.

Certificate of Appropriateness

Once the project has been approved administratively or by the HPC, Historic Preservation staff will issue a certificate of appropriateness (COA).

The COA must be included with plans and materials submitted to the Department of Permits and Inspections when applying for building or zoning permits. If drawings submitted for a building or zoning permit vary in any way from the drawings approved by Historic Preservation staff or the HPC, the permit drawings will need to be revised. If drawings     submitted for a building or zoning permit vary substantially from drawings approved by staff or HPC, the project may need to return to the HPC for approval. Please coordinate with Historic Preservation staff if any changes need to be made to the project’s design during permitting or construction.