Screw You, Architecture Review Board!

Another story of unintended consequences:

I love it!

I hated the Architectural Review Boards in that area when I worked in DC. I like poetic justice. They have way too much power in my opinion and have created a lot of ugly buildings. Design by committee is never a pretty thing.

I am dealing with one right on a project who likely will kill the project. Amazing that they are so short sighted that they will lose a project in this economy. This story made me smile though!

This case is even more silly because the builder was talking to the board-and getting their advice on what was OK-only to have them pull the rug out from under him.

I’d be angry if I spent a bunch of money on plans and architects to develop a plan that a member of the board said was OK in principle, only to have that same person vote against it–and this is beautiful poetic revenge.

Hmmph, its not as if 1800 walls or roofs are anything old or special anyway, my outside toilet is older than that.

I read that story today too. Good for that guy! Those prude busybody complainers better get used to the sex shop because apparently it’s getting good business. I’ll definitely be stopping by next time I am in Old Town!!

And this also, in my opinion, points to what a poor piece of reporting the OP’s linked story is.

It spends most of its time on the salacious story of an erotic boutique in Old Town but, as far as i can tell, makes no attempt to ask members of the council how someone can go through a 2-year process, spend over a quarter of a million dollars, be assured all along the way that things are proceeding fine, and then be stymied at the last hurdle by the same people who had been supporting him.

The story here is government transparency and accountability, not a sex shop on King Street, and it seems to me that the Post missed the opportunity.

It mentions that the board staff guy, who the owner apparently consulted with, voted agains it, and has since died, and probably a big part of the story did too.

I like the story just as it is. And I’ll bet the question that they were trying to answer for the public is, “How did that shop get there?” And they gave a pretty good answer – a pissed off property owner looking to stick it to the city.

I guess. I just thought they could have tried harder for more of the background and the procedure.

I have to ask, though: how do you spend $350,000 just on plans?

Especially for a “hunting and fishing” store? The story did say there were 8 different plans worked up, but still… $ 350,000?

Architects are expensive, especially if you’re working on a store of a decent size–and doing a more or less full renovation. Sketches or concept work might not be that expensive, but if they worked up eight full sets of construction plans (which might have been necessary–I’m sure the architecture review board demanded a pretty thorough proposal before even starting to review it), that’s 40k each–which doesn’t seem out of the bounds of reasonableness.

The money spent may also include financing that the owner lined up and is locked into now.

My mom is in a somewhat similar situation. She’s been planning an addition to her house, had the plans made and arranged for financing. Her mortgage is now double what it was, but the addition has yet to happen because the town said that her property is non-conforming so she has a bunch of other hoops to jump through, and can’t use the existing plans (as in, she’s not allowed to add as many square feet to the footprint of the house as she wanted to. So now she’s going to add a second story, instead).

This was after being assured by several people on teh review board that because her property has always been non-conforming (been that way since it was first built on 57 years ago), she was not expected to adhere to the rules for non-conforming properties. Tremendously frustrating.

I like to think I am NOT expensive when compared to a Lawyer or Doctor–but I provide a service and unless we have agreed to a fixed fee it is billed on an hourly basis. I can only provide a set fee if we have an mutual understanding on the scope of the work, otherwise it is typically an hourly fee to a guaranteed max, where we can negotiate if I get close.

My current billing rate is $160 an hour—now I don’t get paid $160 an hour, but that includes overhead costs, administrative costs, etc.that my office accounts for. Trust me–my actual pay (although nice) is nowhere near this hourly rate.

To get a project to the ARB you usually need to be at least into Design development which is fairly detailed work, the drawings are usually far enough along that the Client can obtain a construction estimate, so you can see there is a fair amount of work involved to get it to that stage. There likely is a physical model, a virtual computer model, mulitple renderings, etc. In addition since this is an existing building a survey and testing of the actual facility would need to also have happened.

This also was over two years. Now there are 2080 billable hours in a year–IF this was the only thing I worked on (not likely) that would be 4160 hours x $160 = $665,600. So I could easily see it costing that much.

Now what normally would happen would be someone at my level would be on it for maybe 25% time and then I would use 1-3 junior Architects billing from $60-90 an hour to do the actual drafting with me overseeing it. But someone at my level would meet with the Client, the ARB, etc.

So the fee doesn’t seem excessive to me. I am providing design and other professional services–should I not get paid for my time and effort?

As for this instance–unfortunately what happened to this guy isn’t that uncommon. There is lots of backroom politics that happen and Architects and Clients get screwed very often. I have one project right now where the Head of the planning commission screwed us in a very public way. It is very frustrating–you trust someone and you get burned.

As someone who watches local government constantly and very closely, I’m not surprised that the city supported him up until the last minute, then reversed their stance. Sometimes it happens when a new official gets elected or appointed, and sometimes it happens when a citizen’s group begins to complain loudly. Sometimes it just happens because members of a board flip-flip on their position for no discernable reason. One has to wonder what is going on behind the scenes.

I don’t know if it’s interesting to anyone but me, but “tache” can also mean “stain”, rather than “spot”, which means, of course, that the store might actually be called “The Stain”. I wonder which meaning they had in mind.

50-50. Both are equally fitting.