Sara Michael of the Baltimore Examiner has an article in the paper today about developers and their feelings about a design advisory board. As reported, some developers were open to the idea and others expressed doubt. In particular:
Scott Armiger, vice president of Orchard Development in Ellicott City, said the
free market should drive the building design, not an appointed panel.
“I think it should be left up to the developer,” he said, adding that the panel’s recommendations could drive up development costs. Developers conduct market studies and community meetings to ensure the development is good-looking and fits the neighborhood, Armiger said.
“I don’t think we would care to have someone else design a product for us,” he said, adding it could be an “unnecessary step that makes things more bureaucratic.”
For Mr. Armiger and those developers who believe design review is a bad idea, all I ask is that you take a look at the self-storage building adjacent to Snowden River Parkway. I do not think that any market studies or community meetings were held in conjunction with the design of this building. It is an eyesore.
I would also direct their attention to the corner of Governor Warfield Parkway and Twin Rivers Road (I really need to get some pictures of this). Here we have four townhouse developments, one on each corner. On the Wilde Lake side of Governor Warfield Parkway are the Bryant Square and Hollow Oaks townhouse communities. The exterior of the Hollow Oaks townhomes are tan brick with wood trim. The Bryant Square townhomes feature white stucco (although some have been converted to aluminum siding of various colors). On the Town Center side of Governor Warfield Parkway are the Whitney condos and the Governors Grant townhomes. Governors Grant is all red brick (at least from the road) and the Whitney is red brick with a tan/cream (ecru?) siding. The end result is a complete mish-mash of construction materials that don’t work well together. Taken separately, each development has its charm. Pushed together at one intersection, it is a monument to incompatibility. In my opinion, it is visual noise. These are two examples in which a design review board would have helped immensely (anyone else have examples?).
Moreover, as any resident of Columbia that wanted to build a deck or change the color of their front door will tell you, design review is nothing new to most of the property in Columbia. It’s called the Architectural Committee. Each Village has one. It is my opinion that design review would put us (residents and developers) all under the same tent. In fact, it may be worth while to look at the Architectural Control section of the Covenants (Article VII) from each Village for a starting point. The criteria for disapproval are actually quite good (Section 7.03, (a) through (i)):
Section 7.03. The Architectural Committee shall have the right to disapprove any plans and specifications submitted hereunder because of any of the following:
(a) the failure of such plans or specifications to comply with any of the Wilde Lake
(b) failure to include information in such plans and specifications as may have been reasonably requested;
(c) objection to the exterior design, appearance or materials of any proposed
(d) incompatibility of any proposed Structure or use with existing Structures or uses upon other Lots in the vicinity;
(e) objection to the location of any proposed Structure upon any Lot or with reference to other Lots in the vicinity;
(f) objection to the grading plan for any Lot;
(g) objection to the color scheme, finish, proportions, style of architecture, height, bulk or appropriateness of any proposed Structure;
(h) objection to parking areas proposed for any Lot on the grounds of
(i) incompatibility to proposed uses and Structures on such Lot or (ii) the insufficiency of the size of parking areas in relation to the proposed use of the Lot; or
(i) any other matter which, in the judgment of the Architectural Committee, would render the proposed Structure, Structures or uses inharmonious with the general plan of improvement of the Property or with Structures or uses located upon other Lots in the vicinity.
I should be clear about one point. I do not believe that the Columbia Village Architectural Committees should have their authority expanded beyond their current charge. As a former member of the Wilde Lake Architectural Committee and former chair of the Wilde Lake Resident Architectural Committee, I know firsthand that these committees already have an enormous amount of work to do. They do not need to have more put on their plate. I believe a County based Design Advisory Panel is the right way to go. However, I do believe the above cited portions of the Wilde Lake (and the other Villages wording are similar) Covenants are a good place to start when writing the Design Advisory Panel charter.