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The National Register Historic Districts have each been divided into A and B Zones (HARB District Map (PDF)). The A Zone is more important visually and historically, consisting of major or “gateway” streets, or streets with stretches of grand mansions, or exceptionally well preserved or historic streetscapes. The A zone is subject to stricter regulations than the B zone.
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The Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB) is an advisory body created by state and local laws to regulate changes to buildings within the nationally-designated Norristown Historic Districts.
The HARBs job is to review proposals for alterations to the exteriors of the buildings located with the HARB district as well as new construction and demolition. HARB reviews this work to protect and preserve the architectural and historical character of Norristown.
Refer to the HARB District Map (PDF) to determine if your property is located within the National Register Districts boundaries. If so any exterior work requiring a permit that will be visible from a public street must be reviewed. This includes all buildings on the parcel visible from the street (but not from an alley).
The rear of buildings is not normally covered by the HARB, unless the building is on a corner, next to vacant corner lot, or the rear faces another street. Refer to a Norristown street map to determine whether the rear faces an alley or a street.
The HARB is especially concerned with changes to the permanent architectural fabric of the streetscape. Thus, substantial changes to large scale building components, such as stuccoing, or applying siding over brick, or to visually important elements, such as doors, windows, or cornices or porches, will be carefully looked at.
Items not covered by the HARB include:
There is no fee. However, to keep administrative costs low, the applicant is responsible for making copies of the HARB Application (PDF) and supplying the photos or other materials required, such as drawings or shingle samples.
It’s generally best that the building or business owner appear before the HARB, optionally with the contractor. The HARB will have questions which can often only be answered by the owner. Also, the HARB might present various alternatives which only the owner can, or will, agree to.
If there is no one present who can effectively present the owner’s case, the HARB might have to make assumptions leading to a decision the owner might be unhappy with.
In certain routine cases, for buildings in the B zone, the preservation consultant in the Code Enforcement Office (where you get the permit) after visiting the building, might issue an “administrative approval.” This means that the permit can be issued preemptively, before the HARB meeting, and that the consultant will represent the owner at the HARB meeting. In these cases, neither the owner nor the contractor need appear.
The HARB usually meets on the 4th Wednesday of each month, except when holidays or weather interfere. Meetings are at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers located at:Norristown’s Municipal Hall235 E Airy StreetNorristown, PA 19401
All applications and materials must be submitted two weeks before the meeting date.