Bethesda-based architect Tom Manion, who has also shepherded many projects through historical review boards, said that success has depended not only on his knowledge of the nuances of a given architectural style. He also has had to be strategic, researching the biases of the review board. “Some boards are very open to a new interpretation of a historic style and think it enriches the neighborhood, and some think this destroys the neighborhood.” Manion also noted that the bias can change without warning. “One week it’s very contemporary, [the] next week it must look like it was built in 1851.”
Manion said that even when there’s no historic preservation issue to deal with, a house can be located in an area with a homeowners association that is empowered to review the designs for new additions. In most cases, the HOA was established by the original builder or developer to ensure that the houses would not change in character before the subdivision was built out and to prevent homeowners from altering their houses in ways that could negatively affect the value of neighboring properties.