Planning & Zoning

Historic and Conservation Districts

There are three historic districts in the City of Bethlehem where a Certificate of Appropriateness is required prior to issuance of a building permit where the work is visible from the public right of way. These districts include areas of the central business districts found on each side of the Lehigh River and the Mount Airy Neighborhood in West Bethlehem.

North of the Lehigh River, the Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB) reviews all exterior changes proposed to buildings in the Bethlehem Historic District. (See map [PDF] )The Design Guidelines for this district are also available online. The HARB meets once per month on the first Wednesday of every month at 4:00 PM in Town Hall. Complete applications received by noon on the last Wednesday of the month will be placed on the agenda for the next meeting. Applications for a Certificate of Appropriateness can be obtained by contacting the Bureau of Code Enforcement or can be downloaded online.

The Historic Commission is a separate historic review board that reviews modifications to the exterior of buildings in both the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District and the Mount Airy Neighborhood District on the West Side. The Commission meets on the third Monday of every month at 7:00 PM in the Risbon Room of the Banana Factory. Completed applications are due the Monday before the meeting. The same application is used for the Historic Commission as for the HARB. Design Guidelines are also available for the South Side, along with Sign Guidelines.

Ultimately, the historic review boards are recommending bodies. They forward a recommendation to City Council and Council either issues or denies a Certificate of Appropriateness for the proposed revisions. Once a Certificate of Appropriateness is approved, a building permit can be issued for a construction project provided that all other conditions are met.

Download High Quality Map

Download High Quality Map


Bethlehem has also recently created a set of Guidelines for Sustainability. These Guidelines are written more broadly and can easily be utilized by owners of older homes throughout the City, not just in historic districts. These Guidelines address “green preservation” issues in addition to typical home maintenance and preservation issues. Topics include renewable energy sources, energy efficiency improvements, repair vs. replacement of doors and windows, heating/cooling, landscaping, etc. and are available online.

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