Members of the board that passes on designs for new buildings in Alexandria's historic Old Town area were divided yesterday in their opinion of a resolution restricting the board's scope that the City Council passed unanimously.
Two of three architects who serve on the nine-member Board of Architectural Review were highly critical of the resolution, while the third said he was not yet familiar enough with it to express an opinion on it.
The council unanimously approved the resolution early yesterday, having earlier forced a developer to scrap a contemporary design for an Old Town office building. The resolution tells the review board, whose members are appointed by the council, that proposed buildings "must be in the style of the periods at least 100 years earlier . . . particularly Georgian, Greek Revival and Federal."
Duncan Blair, a lawyer who has been a board member since June, said the resolution may improve communications between the board and the council. "We're there to really carry out whatever direction the city wants us to go in," he said. "That direction is something that is unclear."
Board Chairman William Warwick, a bank executive, reserved comment until he could study the resolution.
"I think it's a bad idea," said architect and board member Charles A. Richards. "I think it is restricting us to approve buildings that will be poor copies of buildings that are genuine and historic."
Daniel R. Bairley, another of the board's architect members, produced the contemporary design for the four-story office building planned for the 100 block of S. Alfred Street that ignited the controversy. Developer Robert E. Morrison promised a new design Tuesday night after council members indicated they would not approve his request for a $5 million industrial revenue bond to finance other projects unless the office building design were changed.
Architect Bairley said yesterday the council's resolution "obviously reduces the need for the board. It makes it more of a rubber stamp of the council."
He said the resolution apparently gives the board two options: To continue to do what it believes is best for the city or to disband. "I will continue to vote my conscience," he said. "To do less would be morally wrong."
The third architect member of the board is Ray Lewis, who said that although he was not familiar enough with the resolution to comment on it, he has always strived to make sure that new buildings are "good neighbors" to older ones. He said the council's action will not change that.
Council member Margaret B. Inman, who introduced the resolution, said too many buildings that don't belong in the oldest part of Alexandria have been approved by the board and that something had to be done.
"The Board of Architectual Review seems to think pure modern architecture is more in keeping with the old and historic district than some adaptations" of older styles, she said. "If this is the feeling of the board, this is not the feeling of the council."