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Architecture board lacks common sense

Date published: 8/18/2014

At some point, either the charter of Fredericksburg's Architectural Review Board needs to be rewritten, or the philosophy of its members needs to be adjusted by the direction of a higher authority.

The ARB's approach so often veers from commonsense historic preservation that it's caught in a cycle of fighting the trivialities of door fronts and gutters on the one hand, to blowing the important issues such as the appropriate preservation of the "John Paul Jones House" or the total demolition of a 200-plus-year old colonial on Caroline Street, on the other.

I thought the board had reached a peak of ridiculousness when it refused to OK a side porch roof on Doris Buffett's house because it wasn't the right style. Turns out, originally, that house didn't even have a side porch with a roof. One had been added at some point, but that was from a period only 50 years earlier.

A real historic preservation nail-biter, that one.

Fortunately, the City Council had the final say, and common sense won the day.

Well, here we are again. The ARB doesn't want some ugly house from the 1920s torn down, even though the city bought the property with the expressed purpose of demolishing it (it sits on the land that is being turned into the city's waterfront park).

Everyone who paid any attention to this issue knew that demolition was to be the house's fate.

If the ARB's decision were to stand, we (the city's taxpayers) would own a run-down, historically insignificant Masonic lodge. We'd have to fork out more money to maintain it, and the park would seriously suffer from an aesthetic standpoint.

Hopefully, the City Council will once again reverse, what I consider, an inept decision. Will common sense prevail again? You never know.

T. Schuyler Sweet