Historic Preservation > Local Preservation > Certified Local Government

CLG Application Process

Once a local government has set up their local historic preservation program, they may apply to the State for CLG status. To do so, the local government submits an application containing the following:

Obtaining Certified Local Government Status

Once a local government has set up their local historic preservation program, they may apply to the State for CLG status. To do so, the local government submits an application containing the following:

  1. Letter from the Mayor or Chairman of the Board of Supervisors requesting CLG Status
  2. A copy of the historic preservation ordinance PDF Document or resolutionPDF Document.
  3. A list of the members of the historic preservation commission, indicating the terms of office of each and identifying the Commission officers.
  4. Biographical Sketches, resumes or vitae for each historic preservation commissioner demonstrating that they meet the Secretary of the Interiors Professional Qualification Standards or their positive interest in historic preservation.
  5. A copy of the local government's historic preservation plan.
  6. A copy of the local government's property inventory

The application is reviewed by the State. If found satisfactory the State sends the local government a copy of the CLG Agreement. When the Agreement has been signed by the local government and the state the application packet is sent to the federal government for review and approval. The federal government will notify the local government and the State if CLG status has been awarded.

Assistance in Setting up the Local Preservation Program 

To assist local governments in establishing a local historic preservation program and in applying for CLG status the State has developed a CLG Manual. The manual outlines the process for setting up a local preservation program that will meet CLG program requirements. The manual also contains more information about the CLG program the local government's responsibilities as a participant in the CLG program and on the legal basis for historic preservation programs in Iowa.

To request a copy of the manual contact:

Paula Mohr
CLG Program Coordinator
State Historical Society of Iowa
600 East Locust Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0290
Phone: 515/281-6826
Fax: 515/282-0502

What Happens after Certification?

When a city or county establishes a historic preservation program, it should be ready to support the program and the historic preservation commission. Ideally, the city/county support includes a city/county staff member who is assigned to the commission. The staff member sees that the commission gets clerical assistance and explains city/county operating procedures such as reporting to the Mayor and City Council or Board of Supervisors, preparing an annual budget, coordinating with other city/county commissions and agencies. In addition, the commission will need a meeting space as well as storage space for commission files and the historic property inventory.

There should be financial support for the historic preservation program and commission. This would include a budget for office supplies, postage, telephone, printing, and photography. The CLG Agreement with the State of Iowa stipulates that a minimum of one commission member or representative will participate in State sanctioned training annually. There should be support for travel to training sessions/conferences, including registration, transportation, lodging and meals. The most effective commissions are ones where all commission members are trained and well versed in historic preservation.

There are a variety of grant programs that can be used to support local historic preservation activities. These include the Certified Local Government Grant Program. the REAP-Historic Preservation Development Program Grants, The REAP Country School Grants, the Historic Sites Program Grants, as well as the National Trust for Historic Preservation's grant programs and the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology Grant programs to name a few. While these grant programs help local governments defray the expense of historic preservation activities, all require a local commitment in the form of cash and/or in-kind match. The local government will be the applicant for the grant and should be prepared to provide the required match.

The Commissions Role

The historic preservation commission plays a number of roles. Under the ordinance or resolution it is an advisory body to local elected officials, city or county staff, other city/county commissions and to those who live and own property in the city or county. The historic preservation commission alerts and advises on the appropriate course of action to take regarding the management and preservation of historic properties. Under the Certified Local Government Agreement, the City not the historic preservation commission, is responsible for fulfilling the terms of the Agreement. However, the commission reminds the local government of its obligations.

It is important have a commission spokesperson. Generally this is the Chairman or a commission member who is an effective public speaker. Whenever the commission deals with elected officials, the press, or makes public presentations, the commission spokesperson should do the presentation. This is especially true in cases when the commission is fortunate enough to be assisted by a city or county staff person. The staff person and the commission spokesperson have different roles and responsibilities within the local preservation program. Thus, to retain this distinction and maintain commission autonomy and identity, a commission member should serve as spokesperson.

The historic preservation commission may undertake historic preservation activities directly or delegate responsibility. If the commission is assisted by a staff person, the commission needs to find out how much time the staff person can give to commission work as well as establishing the activities that the commission will undertake directly and those that will be undertaken by the staff person or other personnel, departments, or commissions within the local government. If the commission chooses to undertake a preservation activity, it may recruit volunteers to assist in the effort and even appoint a volunteer as project director. Several commissions have advisory committees, composed of non-commission members, who assist in particular activities.

The historic preservation commission plays an advocacy role, encouraging the city or county to adopt policies, regulations and other measures that will encourage preservation and use of historic properties. When a historic property is threatened with demolition or inappropriate rehabilitation, the historic preservation commission may approach the property owner and advocate for appropriate treatment by outlining alternative courses of action and information about financial incentives.

The commission has an educational function. Broadly, the commission needs to educate the entire community about its preservation program, the benefits and opportunities that it offers. Specifically, the commission educates local governmental officials, staff and other commissions about their responsibilities under the Certified Local Government Agreement PDF Document. The commission educates and provides technical assistance to owners of properties that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Remember, the local government through the commission and as a participant in the CLG program, has access to two grant programs to help defray the cost of preservation activities. The CLG grant program is open only to participants in the CLG program and may be used for planning, survey/evaluation, registration, public education, and pre-development projects. The REAP HRDP grant program is open to all Iowa residents. These grants can be used to underwrite planning, survey/evaluation, registration, public education, predevelopment and rehabilitation projects.

Survey and Evaluation

For the commission to fulfill any of its responsibilities, the commission must be able to locate the community's historic properties. This is done through survey and evaluation, two steps to distinguish old properties from significant ones which merit preservation. 

Survey and evaluation are on-going activities because each year another group of properties becomes 50 years old and eligible for National Register listing. Consequently, the commission needs to work with the local government to set up a procedure to allow for on-going survey and evaluation. The on-going survey-evaluation process can be fairly simple involving an annual request to the public to research their properties and instructing the public on where they can get forms, instruction and additional information. The local government can commit to a policy of completing Iowa Site Inventory forms whenever it works on a publicly or privately owned property. The city could distribute Iowa Site Inventory forms to applicants for building permits, requesting and requiring them to complete the form. The city/county and commission could commit to a multi-year survey/evaluation program in an effort to cover larger areas in a relatively short period of time.

Historic Property Inventory

The commission should work with the local government to develop its historic property inventory. This will entail obtaining copies of survey/evaluation project reports, National Register nominations, Iowa Site or OSA forms for properties within the local government's limits. In many cases, the local government will have much of this information; however, it may be filed in a number of different places.


Under its ordinance/resolution and the CLG Agreement, the local government and the commission are to encourage nominating eligible properties to the National Register of Historic Places. Again there are many ways this can be accomplished through informational mailings notifying owners of the opportunity; through informational and training workshops on preparing a nomination; through distribution of information on the National Register and the nomination forms. The commission should make sure that the local government keeps a current list of owner's names.

Whenever a property in the local government's jurisdiction is nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, the commission and the chief elected official (Mayor or Chairman of the Board of Supervisors) will be asked to review the nomination. The State's national register coordinator will send a letter and form to the commission chair. or contact notifying them of the review and providing instruction on its conduct. When the commission reviews and comments on the nomination, their review should focus on whether the nomination contains an adequate description of the property, places it within a context, and makes a solid case for its significance and integrity within the context. If there are factual errors in the nomination, the commission may correct these. The commission may also provide additional information that will strengthen the nomination.

At some point in time, the commission may recommend to the local government that it develop its own listing of historic places. This is called local designation. The local government can chose to designate single properties, typically called landmarks, and/or historic districts. If the local government wishes to designate historic districts, then it must follow the Code of Iowa, Section 303.20 et. Seq. In setting up the designation system. As a participant in the CLG program, the local government is asked to consult with the State and submit all ordinance revisions, nomination forms, and design guidelines to the State for review and comment when setting up a system for local designation.

Management, Protection and Preservation

The commission will want to become familiar with the local government's comprehensive land use plan. If there is no such animal, recommend that one be developed which contains a historic preservation component. If there is a plan, review it, develop a historic preservation component for it and an implementation procedure.

The commission will want to look at local government policies, regulations, practices and incentive programs to determine how these effect historic properties. If the local government lacks a policy, regulation or incentive program, the commission might research these, develop recommendations and encourage the local government to adopt the recommendations. If the local government engages in practices that harm historic properties such as demolition of unsurveyed/unevaluated properties, the commission might make recommendation for an alternative practice that would allow for potential preservation if the property was found to be significant. Some of the local government's regulations may make it difficult to preserve historic properties, e.g. building code, parking, zoning. Again, the commission can investigate the impact of these regulations, research alternatives that would encourage preservation, and make recommendation to the local government. Finally, the commission should investigate the incentive programs that the local government uses to encourage development and revitilization. Often these focus on new construction and do not encourage recycling or adaptive reuse of historic properties. The commission could research and propose special amendments to these incentives that would make use of historic properties attractive and financially viable.

Working with the private sector (realtors, developers, the chamber of commerce, the economic development corporation, banks and contractors) is important. Often the private sector resists historic preservation efforts because misconceptions about its purpose, focus and cost. The commission could initiate educational programming on the economic benefits of historic preservation to neighborhood and downtown revitalization efforts. The commission could explore ways of training contractors in appropriate rehabilitation techniques and supporting their use of those techniques through incentive programs. Working with realtors and financial institutions to encourage the marketing of historic properties and the provision of loans for their purchase or rehabilitation is another step the commission might take.

The commission can also work with the owners of historic properties offering the use of the commission library, directing owner's to appropriate consultants, incentive programs, state staff who can assist. Using the the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation's Land Owner's Options, the commission can explain the various ways that a private property owner can insure preservation of his/her historic property.

Finally, the commission can help the community enjoy and appreciate it rich, historic built environment. Establishing an annual event during Historic Preservation Week in May focuses attention on the local historic preservation program, individual efforts and properties. An awards program also gives public recognition and positive feedback and reinforcement. Getting the public schools to utilize the historic preservation component in the Prairie Voices Curriculum brings the youth of the community into the historic preservation program as does encouraging service projects. Developing walk tours, informative publications (these can be based on National Register nominations), events at historic properties-all serve to bring community residents into the historic preservation program.

©2013 The State of Iowa, All Rights Reserved | Policies | Accessibility | Non-discrimination and Accommodation | Website Feedback