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Project Review: Process

Each year approximately one thousand projects are reviewed by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission. Project Review ensures that local, state, and federal projects avoid or minimize harm to significant historic properties by making historic preservation part of the formal planning process. This review is required for federally funded or permitted projects by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (36 CFR 800). The Rhode Island Historic Preservation Act (RIGL 42:45 et seq.) requires a similar review for state and local projects. Projects which are entirely private undertakings are not subject to review unless a federal or state permit or license is required.

The Commission collects data to evaluate the significance of historic properties. In the case of historic buildings, Commission files generally contain enough information about historic properties to conduct an initial review. In the case of archaeological sites, site files and predictive models can be used to estimate the likelihood of sites being present in a project area, but additional fieldwork is usually needed in archaeologically sensitive areas.

Standardized procedures are used to assess project impacts and develop appropriate responses. The Project Review System is based on three premises:

1. Every project referral should be reviewed so that possible impacts to historic resources can be evaluated.
2. Efforts should be made to preserve all historic resources which have been evaluated as significant.
3. Existence of extraordinary problems or an overwhelming public benefit of a particular project also should be considered during Commission reviews.

The Project Review Coordinator receives and tracks all project referrals. The Coordinator is responsible for checking the Commission's files to determine whether enough information has already been collected to identify historic properties within the project area. As appropriate, the Coordinator is authorized to issue findings that no historic properties are located in the project area or that the project will have no effect on historic properties.

Projects that may involve archaeological sites are routinely referred by the Project Review Coordinator to staff archaeologists. Using existing information contained in site files and applying predictive models, the archaeologists assess the archaeological sensitivity of the project area and recommend whether a field survey should be required. Other staff, including historians, architectural historians, or historical architects, may be involved in project review as needed.

Once sufficient information is gathered and consultations are made, the Project Review Coordinator recommends to the Executive Director whether the project will have an adverse effect on historic properties and whether the adverse effect can be avoided or minimized. When there is the potential for the effect of a project to be adverse to historic resources, the Project Review Coordinator works with the project applicants and their consultants to develop means to avoid adverse effects. Where adverse effects are unavoidable, means are sought to mitigate the adverse effects through design review, documentation of resources which may be destroyed, data recovery at archaeological sites, and other means. Mitigation measures must meet standards for Historic Preservation Projects established by the Secretary of the Interior.

For more information about Project Review, email Glenn Modica, or call him at (401)222-2671.