The City of Key West, Florida

The Southernmost City in the Continental United States


How to Apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness

What is a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA)?

A Certificate of Appropriateness is an issued document stating that the proposed work is appropriate for the historic district and meets the regulations in the land development regulations and HARC Guidelines. 


When is a Certificate of Appropriateness Required?

Sec. 102-152 of the Land Development Regulations states, “A certificate of appropriateness is required for the erection of any new structure, building, fence, deck or sign or the painting, repainting, repair, alteration, remodeling, landscaping or demolition of the exterior of any existing building, structure, fence, deck, sign, landscape, or lot."

HARC Guidelines state that, “All exterior work must have HARC approval whether a building permit is required or not. If a building permit is required, the applicant shall obtain HARC approval prior to issuance of the permit.”

The Guidelines also state that HARC approval MUST be secured on:

  • Repairs to buildings
  • Any painting and associated removal of existing paint
  • Restoration or rehabilitation of buildings
  • Additions to existing buildings
  • New construction
  • Fences, either new or replaced
  • Alterations to streets, sidewalks, or street furnishings
  • Installation of signs, awnings, benches or lighting
  • Construction of swimming pools and/or decks
  • Placement of temporary facilities such as vendor stands
  • Miscellaneous structures (i.e. towers, etc.)
  • Improvements of a right-of-way, public and private
  • Exposed utilities
  • Historic interior public spaces
  • Interiors or all property individually listed on the National Register


There are Two Types of COA Review:

Staff Review

Staff will review and approve smaller projects such as maintenance, repairs, painting, fences, paving, mechanical equipment, and pools. A HARC Certificate of Appropriateness/Building Combo Application is used for this type of review.

If an application does not comply with the HARC Guidelines and ordinances, then the application will need the HARC Commission Review, as staff cannot deny applications.

Approximately 90% of HARC applications undergo a staff review.

HARC Commission Review

Large projects, such as additions, new construction, primary façade changes, demolition, and projects that do not comply with the HARC Guidelines and ordinances, will need to be reviewed by the HARC Commission. A pre-application meeting with HARC staff is required for large projects.

For more information, please see the HARC Commission Meetings page.


How to Apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness

For Staff Review

Applicants can submit their completed applications to the Building Department counter at 1300 White Street, by the parking lot entrance to City Hall.

  • The key for your application to move smoothly and quickly through the process is to submit a complete and clear application that complies with all Land Development Regulations and Ordinances. Please review the Minimum Requirements for applications.
  • Photos of existing conditions are always a minimum requirement for HARC applications.
  • Please send photographs and other documents digitally to Include the property address in the subject line.
  • You can check the status of your permit here.


For Commission Review

Applications should be submitted to the HARC/Tree Administrative Assistant at 1300 White Street, who is located on the right side of the large counter by the parking lot entrance. All documents should also be sent digitally to

  • Pre-Application Meeting: Large projects that need HARC Commission Review require a pre-application meeting with HARC staff. To schedule a pre-application meeting, please email
  • Application: A HARC Major Projects Application is required for these types of projects.
  • Demolition: If the project includes structural demolition, then please fill out and attach the Demolition Appendix. Owner signature is required.
  • Checklist: Please check the HARC Major Projects Checklist before submitting the application.



For HARC fees, check the HARC Fee Schedule.


Economic Hardship

Sec.102-190: In cases of undue economic hardship, as defined in Sec.102-186, HARC may allow the substitution of alternative construction materials for historic or traditional materials where the substitute materials are sufficiently similar in character to such historic or traditional materials so as not to detract from the original character of the historic district.

Economic Hardship Criteria:

  1. Currently receives fixed income benefits such as social security, aid to families with dependent children, or private pension benefits and that the total household income is below 80 percent of the median income for the city. The rates can be accessed here. Only, the owner occupied rates apply, not the rental rates.
  2. Currently receives assistance through the mayor's revolving loan fund, rental rehabilitation program, or other program which is income-indexed and which provides for physical improvements to the subject property; or
  3. The applicant corporation currently has tax-exempt status as a nonprofit corporation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The applicant must also submit a general HARC/Building Combo Application and the Economic Hardship Affidavit, affirmed by a notary public, that certifies that the applicant meets the above criteria with the submitted additional information.


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Enid Torregrosa,
Historic Preservation Planner

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