CCHD Frequently Asked Questions

Department:  Cottage City Hist. Dist. Commission  
Type:  FAQs  



Frequently Asked Questions About the Cottage City Historic District


Q. What is the Cottage City Historic District (CCHD)?

A. The Cottage City Historic District is a local historic district established by a twothirds

vote at a annual town meeting and provided for under Massachusetts

General laws, Chapter 40c. Oak Bluffs is one of some 200 towns in the state with

at least one local historic district. A seven member Cottage City Historic District

Commission is responsible for its operation.


Q. What do the CCHDC rules require of a property owner?

A. The CCHDC by-law requires that property owners within the district boundaries

apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness, Non-applicability or Hardship from the

commission if they plan to change the style or materials of an exterior

architectural feature that is visible from a public way.


Q. Do I need to get a certificate to repair or maintain my home as it is?

A. No, provided the style and materials do not change, or the change is not visible

from any public way. For example, replacing old asphalt roof shingles with new

ones would not require a certificate from the commission.* The replacement of

porch flooring would not require a certificate if the new material and style

(matched wood boards, for example) were the same as the old. However, a

certificate would be required to change wood porch posts to fiberglass. In

addition, decorative elements like turned posts, balusters, brackets or other details

may not be removed without first obtaining a certificate from the commission.


Q. If my home is not Victorian and I want to build an addition, must it be in the

Victorian style?

A. No. While this style predominates in much of the district, other building styles

including craftsman, shingle, and vernacular (no particular style) can be found as

in the district as well. The CCHDC by-law is not intended to falsely Victorianize

buildings of alternate style. It may, however, seek to insure that any addition to a

non-Victorian home be compatible with the original structure in such details as

roof type and pitch, fenestration (windows), mass and siding.


Q. Does the by-law cover just homes?

A. The CCHDC by-law covers all structures within the district, including garages

and sheds.


Q. What about changes to the interior of my house?

A. The CCHDC has no jurisdiction over what a property owner does on the inside of

a building within the CCHD.


Q. Will the CCHDC tell me what color to paint my house?

A. No. Under the by-law that is purely the owner's choice. However, if the property

owner desires it, the CCHDC can provide information on what colors are

historically accurate.

Q. What about landscaping?

A. The CCHDC by-law does not cover plantings. It does, however, cover walks,

decks, walls and other structures above ground level.


Q. How do members of the Commission decide on what's "appropriate"? Are they

acting on their personal opinions? What makes them qualified to do this?

A. In fact, issues of appropriateness are considered in light of the district's

architectural guidelines, which were written by a licensed architect and

promulgated at public hearings prior to the district's creation. These are also

available on the website and at Town Hall. In addition, the commission gives

great weight to documentary evidence such as period photographs, surviving

architectural details and published histories of the town. The by-law also provides

appointing preference to at least one licensed architect.


Q. Instead of applying for a Certificate, and going to a meeting, can the chairman or

a member of the commission give me verbal approval?

A. No. That would be a violation of the by-law. All deliberations and decisions of the

Commission must be conducted at a legally advertised public meeting.


Q. How does the CCHDC application process relate to getting a building permit?

A. Both the by-law and relevant section of the Massachusetts General Laws stipulate

that no building permit can be issued by the town before a certificate has been

issued by the CCHDC. On the other hand, some activities exempt under the

CCHDC by-law may still require a building permit from the town. Be sure to

check with the town building official.


* Note that homeowners should check with the Town Building Official to see if the

work requires a building permit.