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Frequently Asked Questions


Who is the Plainfield Historic Preservation Commission?
The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) consists of 11 members appointed by the Mayor who serve terms of either 4 or 2 years. All members reside in Plainfield, NJ and no more than 4 members may reside outside of a historic district. The HPC obtains legal counsel from the municipal attorney and appoints a consultant who is a recognized professional in the field of historic preservation.
What does the HPC Do?
Besides informing the public and the City on historic preservation related issues, the HPC works with property owners who are proposing work on buildings that are historic sites or are located in one of Plainfield’s 10 historic districts. The HPC works with property owners using 3 types of venues: informational meetings, emergency hearings, and Certificate of Appropriateness (CA) hearings. 
What is an Informational Meeting?
Persons considering work that may require a CA are encouraged to request an "Informational Meeting" with the HPC. The purpose of an informational meeting is to review the work and inform the persons of the standards of appropriateness and the procedures for obtaining a CA, if one is required. The Informational Meeting does not require the property owner to send legal notice.
What is an Emergency Hearing?
An emergency is defined as a situation in which the condition of a building is so damaged by an event such as a natural disaster, major fire, serious accident or structural collapse, that it constitutes an immediate, direct, demonstrable, and severe hazard to the public safety. The poor condition of a building caused by long term deterioration shall not be considered an emergency.

When a building requires immediate repair to preserve the continued habitability of the building and/or the health and safety of its occupants, emergency repairs may be performed without first obtaining a CA. Under such circumstances, the repairs performed shall be only such as are necessary to protect the health and safety of the occupants of the building and/or to maintain the habitability of the building. At least 3 members of the HPC will review the request and an Emergency CA may be issued upon a majority vote of the members. After the issuance of an Emergency CA the applicant shall apply for a standard CA.
What is a Certificate of Appropriateness Hearing?
A CA is required for any demolition, relocation, addition, new construction, or change in exterior appearance that is subject to view from a public street. Exterior changes include (but not limited to) the removal, repair or replacement of windows, doors, shutters, balustrades, railings, columns, cornices, moldings, trim, stairs, steps, porches, walks, siding, gutters, sidewalks, fences, and signs. The owner is required to appear before the HPC for a public hearing. At the hearing the applicant presents the scope of work explaining what work will be done and what type of methods and materials will be used. If approved, a CA is issued and if it is not approved an appeal process is in place.
What Can a Property Owner Do without a Certificate of Appropriateness?
A property owner does not need a Certificate of Appropriateness for

  • painting
  • ordinary repairs (such as replacing missing windowpanes, patching gutters, replacing shingles)
  • interior changes (unless they affect the exterior, such as changing windows or doors)
  • changes to areas that are not visible from a public right-of-way
  • landscaping (unless it includes walls or fences)
What Can the Property Owner Do if the HPC Denies an Application?
  • the property owner may revise the plans and resubmit the application to meet the HPC requirements
  • the property owner has the right to appeal to the Plainfield Zoning Board of Adjustment
What are the Penalties?
It is a violation to undertake any activity to a historic site or improvement within a historic district that requires a CA without first having obtained a CA. Upon learning of the violation, the Zoning Officer shall serve a notice describing the violation and giving the owner 10 days to abate the violation by restoring the site or improvement to its previous condition. In the event that the violation is not abated within 10 days of service, the Zoning Officer shall issue a summons and complaint, to be heard in the municipal court. 

The penalty for violations shall be as follows: for each day, up to 10 days - $25 per day; for each day, 11 to 25 days - $50 per day; for each day beyond 25 days - $75 per day.

For further information please contact the Plainfield Historic Preservation Commission by email at or by phone at 908-753-3580