160D-944. Designation of historic districts.

(a) Any local government may, as part of a zoning regulation adopted pursuant to Article 7 of this Chapter or as a development regulation enacted or amended pursuant to Article 6 of this Chapter, designate and from time to time amend one or more historic districts within the area subject to the regulation. Historic districts established pursuant to this Part shall consist of areas that are deemed to be of special significance in terms of their history, prehistory, architecture, or culture and to possess integrity of design, setting, materials, feeling, and association.

A development regulation may treat historic districts either as a separate use district classification or as districts that overlay other zoning districts. Where historic districts are designated as separate use districts, the zoning regulation may include as uses by right or as special uses those uses found by the preservation commission to have existed during the period sought to be restored or preserved or to be compatible with the restoration or preservation of the district.

(b) No historic district or districts shall be designated under subsection (a) of this section until all of the following occur:

(1) An investigation and report describing the significance of the buildings, structures, features, sites, or surroundings included in the proposed district and a description of the boundaries of the district have been prepared.

(2) The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, acting through the State Historic Preservation Officer or his or her designee, has made an analysis of and recommendations concerning the report and description of proposed boundaries. Failure of the Department to submit its written analysis and recommendations to the governing board within 30 calendar days after a written request for the analysis has been received by the Department relieves the governing board of any responsibility for awaiting the analysis, and the governing board may at any subsequent time take any necessary action to adopt or amend its zoning regulation.

(c) The governing board may also, in its discretion, refer the report and proposed boundaries under subsection (b) of this section to any local preservation commission or other interested body for its recommendations prior to taking action to amend the zoning regulation. With respect to any changes in the boundaries of a district, subsequent to its initial establishment, or the creation of additional districts within the jurisdiction, the investigative studies and reports required by subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of this section shall be prepared by the preservation commission and shall be referred to the planning board for its review and comment according to procedures set forth in the zoning regulation. Changes in the boundaries of an initial district or proposal for additional districts shall also be submitted to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (2) of subsection (b) of this section.

On receipt of these reports and recommendations, the local government may proceed in the same manner as would otherwise be required for the adoption or amendment of any appropriate zoning regulation.

(d) G.S. 160D-914 applies to zoning or other development regulations pertaining to historic districts, and the authority under that statute for the ordinance to regulate the location or screening of solar collectors may encompass requiring the use of plantings or other measures to ensure that the use of solar collectors is not incongruous with the special character of the district. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d); 2021-88, s. 1(e).)