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Old Georgetown FAQs

  1. What is the difference between the Old Georgetown Board and the Commission of Fine Arts?
  2. Do I have to submit to the CFA following the OGB review?
  3. What’s the difference between the OGB Consent Calendar and the Old Georgetown Appendix?
  4. What is the OGB/CFA’s relationship to the District government?
  5. What is meant by “design review?”
  6. What's the difference between a concept review and a permit review?
  7. Can I ever skip the concept review and directly apply for a permit?
  8. How long is my OGB/CFA approval good for?
  9. I am renovating the interior of my home. Do I need to submit an application for OGB/CFA review of my plans?
  10. I am renovating a commercial space. Do I need to submit an application for OGB/CFA review of my plans?
  11. My proposed alterations are only on the rear of my building. Do I need to submit an application for OGB/CFA review of my plans?
  12. Do I need to submit for review by the OGB/CFA to fully or partially demolish a building?
  13. Do I need to submit for review by the OGB/CFA if my project involves work in public space?
  14. What kinds of projects do not require review by the OGB/CFA?
  15. Are there any policies or guidelines I can follow when preparing plans for my project?
  16. Do I need to consult with OGB staff prior to submitting?
  17. I received a Stop Work order and notice of permit violation. What do I do now?<
  18. How often does the OGB meet? What are the submission deadlines?
  19. Must I make a presentation to the Old Georgetown Board? If so, what do I need to bring?
  20. How do I obtain a record of my presentation to the Board? Is there a transcript?
  21. Can I appeal the OGB/CFA's recommendation if it is not in my favor?
  22. What are the boundaries of the Old Georgetown historic district?
  23. What is the role of other Georgetown community organizations, such as the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG), ANC 2E, or other neighborhood associations?
  24. I have concerns about a neighbor's construction proposal. How can I make these concerns known to the OGB/CFA?
  25. I would like to learn about the OGB/CFA review history for a particular property in Georgetown. How can I access this information?
1. What is the difference between the Old Georgetown Board and the Commission of Fine Arts?

The Old Georgetown Board is an advisory board to the Commission of Fine Arts, the federal design review agency in Washington, DC. The Board hears presentations, reviews staff recommendations, and makes recommendations on all submitted cases, which are then forwarded to the Commission of Fine Arts for final approval. The review of nearly all proposed projects in the Old Georgetown historic district follow this process. Occasionally, a project in the Old Georgetown historic district will require presentation to the Commission of Fine Arts; OGB staff will notify applicants if this is required.

2. Do I have to submit to the CFA following the OGB review?

No, OGB submissions are forwarded by OGB staff to the CFA for approval as part of the OGB/CFA review process.

3. What’s the difference between the OGB Consent Calendar and the Old Georgetown Appendix?

The OGB Consent Calendar is a document prepared for the OGB meeting; it contains staff recommendations for projects and is submitted to the Old Georgetown Board for approval at the OGB meeting. The Old Georgetown Appendix is a document prepared for the CFA meeting; it contains approved Consent Calendar items as well as the Board’s recommendations on cases presented in the OGB meeting and is submitted to the Commission of Fine Arts for final approval at the CFA meeting two weeks after the OGB meeting.

4. What is the OGB/CFA’s relationship to the District government?

Design review by the OGB/CFA is required as part of the permit process of the District of Columbia. OGB/CFA makes recommendations to the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, which also has review responsibility for projects in the Old Georgetown historic district. Final CFA action is required for the issuance of a building construction permit. OGB staff work closely with other District government entities, including the staff of the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

5. What is meant by “design review?”

Design review refers to the review of the aesthetic character of new or renovated construction. In the case of a designated historic district such as Old Georgetown, the OGB/CFA also considers whether a proposed design is compatible with the historic fabric of the community, which does not preclude contemporary designs.

6. What's the difference between a concept review and a permit review?

Concept review provides an opportunity for the applicants to know what is acceptable at an early stage of design, but a concept approval does not constitute the necessary advice to issue a permit for the work. A separate permit application must be filed and submitted for review by the OGB/CFA.

7. Can I ever skip the concept review and directly apply for a permit?

Under certain circumstances and upon the advice of the OGB staff, the concept phase may be skipped. The determination will be made by the OGB staff based on the scope and proposed design of the project and the characteristics of the subject property.

8. How long is my OGB/CFA approval good for?

Concept approval by the OGB/CFA expires after two years. At the end of that period, the original applicant may make a new submission to DCRA to request a one year extension of the previous concept approval. Permit approval by the OGB/CFA expires after four years. If construction of the project has not been substantially started within that period, the applicant must make a new submission to DCRA for permit review by the OGB/CFA.

9. I am renovating the interior of my home. Do I need to submit an application for OGB/CFA review of my plans?

Site modifications, window and door replacements, mechanical equipment (such as vents, meters, and rooftop condensers), visible electrical wiring and lighting, and other exterior changes commonly associated with interior renovations all require review by the OGB. OGB/CFA review is not required only if there are no changes proposed to the exterior of the property.

10. I am renovating a commercial space. Do I need to submit an application for OGB/CFA review of my plans?

Signs, outdoor seating areas, window, door, and storefront replacements, mechanical equipment (such as vents, meters, and rooftop condensers), visible electrical wiring and lighting, and other exterior changes commonly associated with commercial renovations all require review by the OGB. OGB/CFA review is not required only if there are no changes proposed to the exterior of the property.

11. My proposed alterations are only on the rear of my building. Do I need to submit an application for OGB/CFA review of my plans?

Yes. OGB/CFA reviews the design of all alterations visible from public space. The OGB staff will make a site visit to determine the visibility of the proposed work from public space. Note that vegetation is not considered in determining visibility. If the project is determined not to be visible, the submission is returned to the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board for its review.

12. Do I need to submit for review by the OGB/CFA to fully or partially demolish a building?

Yes. The review process for demolition projects is the same as for construction projects.

13. Do I need to submit for review by the OGB/CFA if my project involves work in public space?

Construction projects with public space components must be submitted to DCRA for review by the OGB/CFA prior to submission for a DDOT public space permit. Projects involving only work in public space, with no work on private property, must also be submitted for OGB/CFA review through DCRA prior to submission for a DDOT public space permit. Once OGB/CFA review is complete, the OGB staff will process the DDOT public space permit through the online DDOT permit system.

14. What kinds of projects do not require review by the OGB/CFA?
  • minor repairs
  • masonry repointing
  • storm windows
  • temporary primary business signs to be displayed 60 days or less while review for a permanent sign is pending
  • installation, removal or repairs of underground storage tanks, underground utility lines, and underground waterproofing measures
  • temporary construction barriers and scaffolding and public space permits for dumpsters and parking
  • repair or partial replacement in kind of compatible fences (new fences or substantial replacement of a fence requires OGB/CFA review; replacement of small portions can considered a minor repair not requiring a permit)
  • changes of use involving no physical change to the exterior of the property
15. Are there any policies or guidelines I can follow when preparing plans for my project?

The OGB has adopted a policy for additions and site alterations to properties in Georgetown. See the policy page for more details. In addition, the District of Columbia incorporated specific sign regulations for Old Georgetown in Chapter 12 A, Appendix N of the D.C. Construction Code (click on "View Text").

16. Do I need to consult with OGB staff prior to submitting?

It is highly recommended that applicants and/or their agents contact OGB staff prior to submission to determine if there is any additional or special information that should be included in the submission. OGB staff may also recommend an informal staff consultation meeting prior to submission.

17. I received a Stop Work order and notice of permit violation. What do I do now?

You must file for a building permit at DCRA; if OGB review is required the submission will be referred to the OGB/CFA for review.

18. How often does the OGB meet? What are the submission deadlines?

The Old Georgetown Board meets once every month, usually the first Thursday, with the exception of August. Submission deadlines to DCRA are three weeks prior to the meeting. See the OGB meeting schedule for meeting and deadline dates.

19. Must I make a presentation to the Old Georgetown Board? If so, what do I need to bring?

Any case on the OGB meeting agenda requires a presentation before the Old Georgetown Board; OGB staff will notify you if your case is on the agenda. Presentation materials may include boards, models, and material samples that describe the submitted design, not a new or revised design.

20. How do I obtain a record of my presentation to the Board? Is there a transcript?

Written transcripts are not made for the Old Georgetown Board meetings, nor are minutes prepared. Digitally recorded audio excerpts are available for reference, but the official record of the Board’s actions is the Old Georgetown Appendix.

A written transcript is made of the public meetings of the Commission of Fine Arts. Copies of transcripts are available for reference, as are digitally recorded audio excerpts, but neither of these is considered an official record of the meeting. The official records of the CFA meetings are: the recommendation letter (sent to the applicant after the meeting); meeting minutes (made public following approval at the subsequent Commission meeting); and the approved Old Georgetown Appendix. Once approved, these record documents are available online.

21. Can I appeal the OGB/CFA's recommendation if it is not in my favor?

Concept applications do not constitute a final action and cannot be appealed. Permit applications may be appealed through the District of Columbia.

22. What are the boundaries of the Old Georgetown historic district?

The Old Georgetown Act of 1950 defines the Old Georgetown historic district as a specific area “bounded on the east by Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway from the Potomac River to the north boundary of Dumbarton Oaks Park, on the north by the north boundary of Dumbarton Oaks Park, Whitehaven Street and Whitehaven Parkway to Thirty-fifth Street, south along the middle of Thirty-fifth Street to Reservoir Road, west along the middle of Reservoir Road to Archbold Parkway, on the west by Archbold Parkway from Reservoir Road to the Potomac River, on the south by the Potomac River to the Rock Creek Parkway.”

23. What is the role of other Georgetown community organizations, such as the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG), ANC 2E, or other neighborhood associations?

Review by the ANC and other community organizations is not required for OGB/CFA review. However, it is recommended that applicants and/or their agents contact neighbors who may be affected by a proposed project prior to submission review. Letters of support from the neighbors can be made part of the record. The local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) may be interested in a public presentation of the project so they can offer comments to the Commission of Fine Arts.

24. I have concerns about a neighbor's construction proposal. How can I make these concerns known to the OGB/CFA?

Concerned citizens may submit their comments in support of or in opposition to proposed work on a particular property, in writing to georgetown@cfa.gov, through the CFA website, or to 401 F St, NW, Washington, DC 20001. These documents will be distributed to the Board members and will become part of the public record. As the Commission of Fine Arts and the Old Georgetown Board are design review entities, please limit comments to design issues only. While all written comments are accepted and circulated to the Board members, we cannot guarantee that those received after 4:00 p.m. the day before a Board meeting will be reviewed prior to presentations. Please submit your written comments as soon as possible.

Citizens may also attend the public meetings of the Old Georgetown Board and voice their concerns at the discretion of the OGB Chairman. Please contact OGB staff at (202) 504-2200 or georgetown@cfa.gov if you wish to make a comment in the public meeting.

25. I would like to learn about the OGB/CFA review history for a particular property in Georgetown. How can I access this information?

OGB/CFA submission files and review history are made available to the public by appointment only. Please contact the Records Officer at (202) 504-2200 or cfastaff@cfa.gov to make an appointment. When doing so, please state specific project addresses and dates of review. Some materials, such as meeting minutes and other records of OGB/CFA review, are also available online.