If there is such a thing, Jay Holloway has that classic "historic preservationist" look.

He uses his hands excitedly when he talks about his dream of saving historic homes from imminent demise, gets slightly breathless when he describes measuring moldings and has paint spatter on his clothes even when he's not painting. The most radical thing about him at first glance is the spicy bumper sticker on his pickup truck: "Preservationists do it longer."

But Holloway, who graduated this month from Mary Washington College's prestigious historic preservation program -- the largest of its kind in the nation -- holds views that, by his own description, might shock his colleagues. In the sprawling Fredericksburg area, where even churches open in mini-malls while architectural preservationists try to stop the clock in the 1800s, Holloway believes that his side may need a little renovating.

Even as city leaders plan a more explicit and restrictive code about what can be built in the city's historic district, Holloway says preservation should be encouraged -- not mandated by law. He thinks faux historic "phony Colony" (a phrase that should rhyme if said correctly) homes are much more offensive than highly modern ones -- including a huge glass rectangle of a house under construction in the historic district that has triggered an outcry in Fredericksburg.

"It gives preservationists a bad name when they shove it down people's throats," said Holloway, 32, whose views on this count particularly because he is also a builder.

In many ways, Holloway represents a new generation of views in Fredericksburg. Professors at the school and some preservation officials have started suggesting that "history" includes the period until yesterday and that what's preserved should more closely match what today's society actually values.

"We think about the Washingtons [George and Martha] when we think of downtown Fredericksburg. But what about thinking of our communities in terms of recent human events that are important?" said Mary Washington College professor W. Brown Morton III, who in 1976 wrote the U.S. Interior Department's guidelines for judging what qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places.

"Are there sites associated with the Vietnamese war? The feminist revolution? With the push for gay and lesbian rights? I think we need to turn historic preservation's focus into: Are we protecting and identifying the places that give our people now a sense of dignity?" Morton said. "What I define as historic preservation doesn't have the word 'past' in it anywhere. I say historic preservation is a dynamic and deliberate process through which we decide what to keep from the present for the future."

Unlike Holloway, Morton believes that preservation sometimes requires the force of law. But he agrees that "new construction always has a role in an old place. After all, the world has always built new buildings in old places. Look at Paris, Rome -- Fredericksburg is no different," he said.

Sabina Weitzman, an architect who sits on the board that oversees building in the city's historic district, said she believes that "everything was modern at some point." She said she sees the very start of that discussion opening in Fredericksburg.

"There are a lot of people who want to freeze time. The question is, which time do you pick?" she said, adding that this wasn't an issue until recently, when expanding Washington, D.C., turned sleepy Fredericksburg into a hot little exurb with skyrocketing real estate prices and more newcomers with more ideas about style and preservation.

And among the next generation of residents who will shape the city's future is Holloway, the rare preservationist-builder.

On a recent sticky afternoon just before his graduation day, he was working with a friend on a decidedly unhistoric project: ripping up the kitchen floor of a 1950s ranch-style brick home. Although he said he doesn't do new construction, Holloway is building a business and takes work where he can get it.

Reconciling the tensions between development and preservation is just part of life as a builder in this region, he said. He rehabbed old homes in Charlottesville in his twenties and then moved to Fredericksburg to get a more formal education. Mary Washington's preservation program ranges from municipal planning to archaeology to the science of restoring a plaster ceiling.

Coming from a family that traces its roots in the region to the 1600s, Holloway said he identifies with the arguments of property-rights advocates.

"Developers and landowners have a right to their livelihood. My gripe isn't with them, it's with the supervisors who allow development where there is already traffic," he said. He singled out for criticism Spotsylvania County, where supervisors are considering rezoning 416 acres in a fast-growing area for a new "town" of more than 1,500 homes and 120,000 square feet of commercial space.

Some residents have praised the project for concentrating development instead of contributing to sprawl. Preservationists, including Holloway -- whose family owns a farm nearby in Caroline County -- see it as an example of poor planning.

But he doesn't always oppose projects simply because they're new, big and built on former farmland. "The most important thing for historic preservation is to pick your battles," he said. "Historic preservation is often about compromise. Money doesn't grow on trees."

If Holloway ever builds a home for himself, he said, it will be a contemporary one. Despite his attraction to old buildings and old materials, "I like modern architecture," he said. "I'd be more than happy to be the historic preservationist who lives in a glass box."

Builder-preservationist Jay Holloway visits Grace Episcopal Church in Corbin, Va. He is trying to put the church on the historic registry.