NISKAYUNA — An architectural review board — intended to encourage and promote continuity and sustainable design in Niskayuna neighborhoods — may be returning to the town.
David D'Arpino, a member of the Planning Board, presented his ideas for the comeback at the Jan. 22 meeting of the Town Board.
D'Arpino, a former architect who now works in construction, said the town's last architectural review group folded during the late 1990s.
He proposed that the new version of the board — if granted approval by the Town Board — would work with Building Department personnel and members of the Planning and Zoning Boards to review commercial and residential projects.
D'Arpino also said people working on commercial projects would have to pay a fee for review board involvement. Residents working on projects around their homes would not have to pay anything.
"The ARB would be considered a resource to applicants to help them navigate the initial stages of the application process with the town," read part of the presentation shown to the board.
"The intent is not to establish a historical district, it's not to establish a neighborhood association," D'Arpino said. "We're not telling people what color to paint their houses.
"It would help people maintain the aesthetics of renovations or additions to make sure they work with the architecture of the existing house," D'Arpino added.
For example, people with gable roofing on their homes — a peaked roof with two slopes — would be advised not to consider a flat roof during addition planning. "It doesn't work with the roof lines that are there," D'Arpino said.
D'Arpino is also proposing:
- The town seek out residents with backgrounds in architecture, engineering, urban planning and related fields to serve as committee members on the board, which would consist of three to five members.
- Set term limits for members who, as volunteers, would not be paid.
- Ensure the review board would not offer any professional design or engineering services. The board would only review submissions and make sure plans met design standards set by the board.
"We're not taking work away from other businesses in the area," D'Arpino said.
The board would encourage design submissions utilize appropriate architectural language; encourage a range of architectural styles in residential developments; and note adverse design elements, then recommend alternate options that would fit the style of the building.
One bottom line: The review board would try to prevent bad architectural ideas from reaching the construction or renovation stages. Once those mistakes are made now, D'Arpino said, "They're not reversible."
The Town Board may consider reconstituting an architectural review board.
"It's a service to the town," Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw said after the presentation. "David is willing to add his expertise to make our community even better. I think this is a wonderful idea. I think it's an important step for the town."
Supervisor Yasmine Syed said she thinks D'Arpino has brought an interesting idea to the board. But she has questions about the last architectural review panel.
"I want to know what happened to the board," she said. "Why did it go away? Was there no interest? No one to serve on it?"
Syed said such a board could benefit Niskayuna.
"I think it would be helpful for people who are doing improvements to their homes," she said. "It would help keep the nature of the neighborhoods intact."
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]