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What the Heck is the Point of an Architectural Review Board?! What to Expect When Building Your Dream Home!

August 26, 2011

Architectural Review Board. Design Review Committee. Architectural Review Committee.

Why Do They Exist?! One of these is bound to be the cause of a custom build homeowners stress at some point. So what is the point and how can you get YOUR design approved? Well, the whole point of the Review Board is to keep homes in the neighborhood on the same track architecturally. This helps maintain home prices in the neighborhood high and angry neighbors at bay. They tend to control for character and the reason you probably bought there was exactly that. Everyone who bought in that neighborhood has a stake in the appearance of it, and if its architecturally restricted, they have a stake in the appearance of YOUR home too! That may be a hard concept to grasp, but chances are if you were drawn to the neighborhood to begin with, you probably like the style.

What Do They Do? Typically, ARB’s are put in place to maintain a historic element of an area. Sometimes its for the park service and they are controlling for restoration of OLD structures, others there is a new development going up and they want to maintain a certain standard of quality. Either way, they are controlling for some level of accuracy, character, concept and quality, and if your personal tastes don’t fit within their guidelines, you may be SOL.

Types. There are two types of ARB’s, Public and Private. Public are generally make up of citizens who have been appointed to the position and preside over scheduled public meetings. They tend to oversee older, established neighborhoods. When projects go up for consideration against a public board, the public is invited to comment on the project and the forum is open. Typically projects will be reworked before a final vote if it does not fit within the guidelines.

Private design review tends to be more common in newer developments. Subcontracted architectural firms typically have the final say, and they are never viewed in public. Drawings will be submitted as they are ready and returned later with or without comment. Clearly this can be much more difficult to go through, and no homeowner should make an attempt without knowing what is likely to be, and what won’t be approved.

What To Expect. There are plenty of things you will need for your review, and you should double check with the group you are dealing with to ensure you have everything.First, get a list of guidelines BEFORE you start planning. Generally, the easier you make it at the first meeting, the easier it will be to get it approved. Board members LOVE easy projects!

If you aren’t sure about your design, ask for a design review.This is non-binding once it is over and allows you to get valuable feedback on your design and what may need to change.

Stay flexible. Just remember that there is always another solution, and who knows, you may like it more the second time around!

Patience is the key to success. Clearly you have worked on this project for a long time. Now you need to relax a little and focus on dealing with the task at hand. They may have questions to ask, and it may take all day, so bring a magazine and a cup of coffee. If you have done everything correctly and gotten a pre-review then you should be okay.

Make sure you bring complete documents! This may be the most important because they cannot give you the okay without complete knowledge of what you are planning. Try to make sure that no question needs to be asked when going through them, and bring a materials board to give a better example. This is just a board of samples of paint colors, tiles, etc that you have picked up and want to use. This can make a presentation work just because it gives a much more full idea of exactly what is happening.

Prepare to Negotiate. Know what you can trade, have alternate solutions available at YOUR disposal and offer to trade. Make sure your requests are reasonable though!

Finally, try to remember that although you hate the process and can’t wait to start building, this is the same group of people who are keeping your neighbors from painting their house purple!


Ben Blonder

Owner/Managing Broker, Kapital Real Estate LLC

Office: 970-797-2190

Cell: 970-420-6166

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