The Alexandria Planning Commission recommended last night that the Board of Architectural Review, which reviews designs for new buildings and renovations in the city's Old and Historic District, be reconstituted as a seven-member body, with two seats reserved for architects.
Architect members of the board would not be allowed to practice their profession in that district, under the proposal.
Last week, the City Council gave preliminary approval to revising the board following a long dispute over appropriate architecture for the historic district.
The current nine-member board, which has three architect members, has approved buildings of contemporary design. The council believes that construction should be in Victorian, Federal and other old styles.
Council member Donald Casey had proposed a five-member board with no requirement for architect members. Last night, however, the commission adopted the terms of a countermeasure introduced by council member Margaret Inman. The council is scheduled to take final action on the measure next Tuesday.
The provision to bar architect members of the new board from practicing in the historic district is intended to address suggestions that the current system can pose a conflict of interest.
Last night's action followed a public hearing in which Old Town Civic Association President Andrea Dimond urged reconstitution of the board, saying that it had failed to perform its mandate of approving only "compatible" architecture. Former association president Seymour R. Young suggested that the board had ordered unreasonable changes on the design of a studio in his yard.
"I do not think that one has to be an architect to understand the esthetic beauty of this city," he said.
David Arnaudo, a six-year non-architect member of the board, said architect members want to use innovative styles, even though polls show citizens favor the older styles. He also said there is an "appearance" of conflict of interest in having architect members.
Alexandria Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President G. Barton Middleton was one of three persons who spoke in favor of retaining architects as board members. "There needs to be some professional people on this board to give it the kind of guidance that is needed," he said.