Did you know that St Elmo is Tennessee's largest historic district? We've been on the National Register as a Local Historic District since 1982, and we also have some individual buildings and properties on the register.
As a separate but related designation, St Elmo is also one of Chattanooga's four residential neighborhoods that are subject to "Design Review", aka Historic Zoning. This has been in effect in St Elmo since 1992. The purpose of this designation was for the benefit of the community:
Design Review benefits the community and individual property owners in many important ways. It supports community identity, enhances and protects property values and promotes economic development.
The St Elmo Improvement League (now CAHSE - the Community Association of St Elmo) was instrumental in achieving St Elmo's placement on the National Register and the implementation of Historic Zoning (including drafting the Design Review Guidelines). However, administration of Historic Zoning is a function of the City of Chattanooga and is in no way controlled by the neighborhood association. When someone has a question or concern about Historic Zoning, they often refer to a mythical "Historical Society" that is surely the Preventer of All Projects. We can assure you: there is no such thing! Design Review is actually a pretty straightforward process once you understand it, so keep reading!
Basically, all exterior work, EXCEPT for painting and landscaping, should be discussed with the City's Historic Preservation Planner. An application for a Certificate of Appropriateness can be obtained from the Historic Preservation Planner or from the City of Chattanooga website. By City ordinance all new construction, additions, and demolitions must be reviewed by the Chattanooga Historic Zoning Commission. Most other projects (such as repairs, siding, roofing, storm doors and storm windows, etc) can be staff reviewed by the Historic Preservation Planner. The Chattanooga Historic Zoning Commission is comprised of representatives from the local historic districts, including St Elmo, as well as contractors and design / architectural experts
All applications are processed on a case-by-case basis, but in general, repairs for upkeep such as roofing, siding, gutters that will keep the house in its current state or bring it closer to its original state can be "staff approved", as can things like storm doors or windows. Larger changes like additions, new door or window openings or new buildings will require consideration by the historic zoning committee, which includes some representatives from St Elmo as well as the other districts and design/architectural experts.
Sarah Kurtz, the Historic Preservation Planner for the City of Chattanooga, has an office located at the Development Resource Center (1250 Market Street), and can be contacted by phone at 423-643-5884.
You used to be able to learn more about Chattanooga Historic Zoning and download project applications at:
http://www.chattanooga.gov/public-works/land-development-office/historic-planning-and-design-review. Unfortunately, the new City of Chattanooga website page about Historic Planning and Design Review has very little information. We will try to find some more information to list here soon!
You can at least download the St Elmo Historic District Design Review Guidelines right here!