Historic District Commission Review Process


of the Review Process

The Bristol Historic District Commission (BHDC) acts as a design review body. Its purpose is to review all proposals affecting the exterior of buildings, structures and sites located within a Local Historic District, and to ensure that physical changes are consistent with the property’s individual historic character, and with the character of the district as a whole. The BHDC’s staff helps property owners by providing guidance, information and technical advice.

Chapter 14 of the Town’s Code of Ordinances establishes the authority of the BHDC to approve or deny proposed exterior work to any property located within the Local Historic Districts (or to any individually-designated property), before the work begins.

Certificate of Appropriateness


All repairs, alterations, new construction, demolition and moving of structures must receive a Certificate of Appropriateness from the BHDC; if the BHDC does not approve the work, no building or demolition permit can be issued, and work cannot begin (Note that interior work is NOT subject to BHDC review). Anyone unsure of the regulations can call the BHDC for assistance.

The Certificate is required even if no building permit is needed.

Application Process

Learn the process for obtaining a Certificate of Appropriateness

  • Download the application packet online (above), or obtain a hard copy through the BHDC staff at Town Hall. This package includes the Application Form, and requirements for a complete application. You should also obtain information about hearing dates and filing deadlines.
  • File a complete application no later than 2 weeks before a scheduled Historic District Commission meeting.
  • If the application is complete (photographs and written specifications, and may also include architectural drawings, etc.), it is placed on the BHDC agenda for review during the next monthly meeting. If the application is not complete, it cannot be reviewed.
  • Attend the BHDC meeting to discuss the project. Decisions are based on information submitted and the BHDC’s written Design Guidelines. The BHDC meets regularly once a month and all BHDC meetings are open to the public.
  • The BHDC will pass a motion on the application to approve as submitted, to approve as noted, to approve in concept, to continue review at another meeting, or to deny. Most applications are reviewed in a single meeting if all required materials are submitted; however, new construction projects and demolition proposals often require at least 2 reviews. Note that each application is open for public comment.
  • If the application is approved, the BHDC issues a Certificate of Appropriateness. A copy of the Certificate of Appropriateness is forwarded to the Building Inspector’s Office if a building permit is required. Failure to adhere to conditions of approval will invalidate the Certificate. If the application is denied, the BHDC documents the decision, and no building permit is issued. The applicant may amend the application and submit it to the BHDC for reconsideration. Or the applicant must wait 1 calendar year from the date of first receipt by the BHDC to submit an unamended application. Or the applicant may appeal the denial to the Zoning Board of Review.
  • All approvals are good for 1 year. If work is not begun within that year, the Certificate of Appropriateness is null and void, and a new application must be submitted.

Concept Review


A Concept Review consultation allows the property owner to discuss general ideas or project plans with the Commission before applying for a Certificate of Appropriateness. The Commission recommends that a concept review be included as part of the initial planning stage of a project. You can contact BHDC staff and fill out an Application for Concept Review.

Contact Us

Address: 10 Court Street, Bristol, RI 02809

Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday | 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM

nick toth

Planner/Historic District Commission Clerk

Phone: (401) 253-7000 ext. 153
[email protected]