Post #350: Board of Architectural Review meeting 8/15/2019

Posted on August 16, 2019

I did not attend last night’s meeting, but my wife did, and this is my synopsis of her report regarding the Marco Polo project.

The BAR passed the Marco Polo project, with a number of caveats that have to be revisited.  So this is more-or-less the end of Marco Polo Gate (Post #245). Kudos to the BAR for fixing, as best they could, the problem that Town staff stealthily handed them.

The caveats include major items such as a) having a proper lighting plan, b) wrapping the brick facades around to the first bay of the alleys between houses, and c) numerous caveats about materials and other smaller items.

Charles (Chuck) Anderson brought up a significant issue but was rebuffed.  The issue is that when the back of a building is visible from the street or another single-family home, it’s supposed to match the front.  You can’t have an ugly or plain building side or rear that is visible to the neighborhood.

In this case, the alleyways between the buildings are visible from Church Street.   I had mentioned this in an earlier post, but I thought it was merely an issue of the building not looking good from that angle (Post #329).  At no time did the builders ever show the view that you will get if you walk past the Church Street side of the building:  Long concrete alleyways, flanked by blank garage doors.

Apparently this is not just a question of taste, it’s part of the Town of Vienna zoning regulations.  Anderson cited the portion of the law that specifically bars having any ugly back of a building visible to the neighbors.  The term in the regulations is “shall have consistent materials”, i.e., all parts of the building that are visible from the street or from an adjacent single-family home have to match the building front, more-or-less.

That’s definitely not true here, where the fronts are brick, but the back is an alleyway of garage doors and white siding. But … apparently that’s consistent enough, or something.

In any case  — see my just-prior post — even if it’s in the zoning rules for Vienna, if nobody bothers to enforce it, it doesn’t much matter.  And it’s pretty clear that nobody will enforce that part of the building code in this case.