Process for COAs

COAs must be applied for prior to starting work on a project. Applications are available online in the category of Historic Preservation.


Minor COAs generally include requests for small modifications, landscaping and site work, rear decks, and other items that will not significantly alter the original character of historic structures or sites. These applications are accepted any weekday. 


Major COA applications are required to be reviewed by the HPC (Historic Preservation Commission). The HPC meets on the 1st Tuesday of each month (unless modified due to a holiday). For these applications an agenda deadline is set approximately one month prior to the HPC’s meeting.

To determine which approval process your COA must follow, refer to the Classification of Work Chart for your proposed scope. (Please be advised that the classifications chart is in the process of being updated to reflect minor and major COAs only.) COA application forms are found on the Applications page under Section 7 - Historic Preservation.

If you need assistance locating this information, email the Planning staff for more information.


A pre-submittal conference with Planning staff is required prior to submittal of major COA applications. Bring all specified submittal materials as per the application checklist. Schedule your appointment on the Pre-Submittal Meeting Portal.


Major COAs will be scheduled for a hearing only when the application is complete and free of comments. Applicants should leave sufficient time to receive and resolve any comments issued by staff. 


For major COAs, the ordinance requires that adjacent property owners are mailed a written notice of the upcoming public hearing at the HPC meeting. A sign is also posted on the subject property. 

Planning staff is available to answer questions, provide technical resources and suggestions, and guide you through the application process. E-mail the Planning staff for more information.

A COA may not be the only approval required prior to starting work on the local historic property. Consult with Planning staff to verify that there are no other requirements, and with City-County Inspections if a building permit will be required. Please see the Section 3.17 of the Unified Development Ordinance for more information about COAs and their validity period.


An appeal of a decision on a COA can be submitted within 30 days of receipt of the decision and is heard by the Board of Adjustment. Appeal of decisions by the Board of Adjustment can be further appealed to the Durham County Superior Court.


Failure to obtain a COA prior to undertaking work could result in delays in permitting and the issuance of a Notice of Violation. Because these local historic designations are part of Durham’s zoning regulations, the property owner may be subject to a daily fine of $500 for every day of non-compliance after receiving a Notice of Violation. Contact [email protected], or call 919-560-4137 and ask to speak with preservation staff immediately to discuss options for rectifying the situation if you have undertaken work without approval.