The Alexandria City Council voted early today to reconstitute the city's board that for the last 37 years has been the watchdog of architectural designs permitted in the city's Old and Historic District.
The Board of Architectural Review, which has had nine members, three of them architects, will be changed to a seven-member board including two architects.
The board has been criticized recently by the council and some citizen groups for approving some contemporary architectural designs rather than sticking to designs in Victorian, Federal and other old styles.
Last week, the city planning commission recommended the reconstitution that the council approved early today by a 6-to-1 vote.
"The only way to get off to a new start," said council member Patricia S. Ticer, who introduced the proposal, "is to start out all over."
She said the board's original purpose was to preserve the historic character of the historic district, which is about one square mile in area among the city's 16 square miles.
The purpose of remaking the board, with new members, was largely to emphasize the council's view that the original mandate of the agency should be adhered to more strictly.
Council member Carlyle C. Ring Jr., one of the council's two Republicans, cast the lone dissenting vote and urged delay. "I fail to personally see the emergency," said Ring, "and I also found it difficult to appreciate fully the reason why we must terminate the services of nine people to make adjustments in the board . . . ."
For over two hours, the council listened to more than a dozen people argue both sides of the issue that emerged last spring when local architect Daniel Bairley, who was a member of the board, designed a contemporary office building for a site in Old Town.
The board approved the building (Bairley abstained), but the council, which has the final say, rejected the design and called for another.
Last night, June Hess, a 14-year resident of Alexandria who has renovated several historic buildings in Old Town, urged the council to delay a decision and study the problem of blending architectural styles. "I think the problem you're dealing with is far more complex than the composition" of the review board, she said.
Backers of the nine-member board presented a 500-signature petition supporting it because "this township remains not a museum frozen at one point in time . . . ."
But Andrea Dimond, president of the influential Old Town Civic Association, summed up the sentiments of citizens urging the board's reorganization: "Most of us who live here like the early look. The Old and Historic District is a small area and for other styles there are other areas."
Following the council's vote, Dimond said: "It seems that they are going down the right road."