Go to: Planning Unit || Urban Design & Special Project Planning || Historic Madison Walking Tours || List of Madison Landmarks

How to Obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness for a Demolition 

Designated Landmarks and All Historic Districts

All demolitions of buildings on landmark property or in historic districts must be approved by the Landmarks Commission.

First, the property owner should determine whether or not the demolition request will require a public hearing. The ordinances require that the Landmarks Commission hold a public hearing on all proposed demolitions, except the following:

            *            all detached garages and accessory buildings;

            *            all non-residential buildings constructed after 1945.

The Landmarks Commission generally meets at 4:30 p.m. on two Mondays per month, for a schedule click on If the demolition request will require a public hearing, a letter to the Landmarks Commission explaining the reasons for the demolition should be submitted to the Landmarks Commission staff no later than three weeks before the meeting at which you wish the project discussed. This allows time to publish notices in the newspaper or record and send letters to surrounding property owners. If a new building is planned for the site, elevations and a plan showing the location of the new building should be included (see section on new construction). If the proposed demolition is exempt from the public hearing requirements, the request for review should be submitted no later than fourteen days before the meeting at which you wish your project discussed. There is no fee for Landmarks Commission review.

The alderperson for the district or the property owner may appeal the decision of the Landmarks Commission regarding demolitions. The appeal must be filed within fourteen days of the Landmarks Commission's decision. The Common Council would then hold a public hearing and could, by a two-thirds vote, overrule the Landmarks Commission. In order to do this, the Council would have to find that failure to grant a "certificate of appropriateness" would preclude any and all reasonable use of the property or that it would cause serious hardship for the owner, provided that the hardship was not self-created (for instance, demolition by neglect).


a.   Whether the building or structure is of such architectural or historic significance that its demolition would be detrimental to the public interest and contrary to the general welfare of the people of the City and the State;

b.   Whether the building or structure, although not itself a landmark building, contributes to the distinctive architectural or historic character of the District as a whole and, therefore, should be preserved for the benefit of the people of the City and the State;

c.   Whether demolition of the subject property would be contrary to the purpose and intent of this chapter as set forth in Sec. 33.01 [the Landmarks Commission ordinance] and to the objectives of the historic preservation plan for the applicable district as duly adopted by the Common Council;

d.   Whether the building or structure is of such old and unusual or uncommon design, texture and/or material that it could not be reproduced or be reproduced only with great difficulty and/or expense;

e.   Whether retention of the building or structure would promote the general welfare of the people of the City and the State by encouraging study of American history, architecture and design or by developing an understanding of American culture and heritage;

f.    Whether the building or structure is in such a deteriorated condition that it is not structurally or economically feasible to preserve or restore it, provided that any hardship or difficulty claimed by the owner which is self-created or which is the result of any failure to maintain the property in good repair cannot qualify as a basis for the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness;

g.    Whether any new structure proposed to be constructed or change in use proposed to be made is compatible with the buildings and environment of the district in which the subject property is located.

City of Madison
Department of Planning & Community & Economic Development