National Register of Historic Places
The National Register is the most commonly referred to – and the most commonly misunderstood – historic designation tool in most communities. There are rigorous standards that a property or neighborhood must meet in order to be eligible for listing in the National Register, and being listed as a National Register property is a great honor that provides opportunities for recognition and promotion, as well as being eligible for federal, state and local economic incentives for rehabilitation, such as the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. Listing a property or historic district in the National Register requires a detailed physical description of the property or area, as well as an explanation of how it meets the criteria for significance. National Register nominations are submitted to the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, with final approval by the National Park Service. Properties listed in the National Register have no protections against alteration or demolition and are not reviewed by a local historic preservation commission.
Local Historic Districts and Landmarks
Local designations include a means for regulating exterior alterations, demolition and new construction for Local Landmarks and Local Historic Districts, typically through the review of a Certificate of Appropriateness by a local preservation commission. In Albany, this review process is managed by the Historic Resources Commission (HRC) and the Department of Planning and Development. In a local historic district, a property owner who wishes to make a significant change to the exterior of the property should review the design standards in the USDO, submit a Certificate of Appropriateness application to the Department of Planning and Development, and then present their application to the HRC. The Commission has the authority to approve the application as submitted, approve it with recommended changes, or deny it based on the design guidelines. A denial may be appealed to the Common Council. Locally designated properties are eligible for the Albany Tax Abatement program.
Local Conservation Districts
The regulations for Conservation Districts are less stringent than those for Local Landmarks and Local Historic Districts, which follow strict preservation standards defined by local design guidelines. A Conservation District is designed to regulate certain characteristics that are considered important to preserve the specific character of a neighborhood, rather than enforcing historic preservation standards. For example, a neighborhood of one-story homes such as bungalows may wish to control the appearance of the neighborhood through height restrictions. A neighborhood that includes many 19th century homes that have significant architectural character as well as numerous vacant lots may wish to regulate architectural style.