Paying Attention: Notes from Observing the September DRC Meeting

by Noëlle McAfee

I showed up at 7:30 to observe the September 6 Design Review Committee, but board liaison Pam Koger-Jesup informed me that the meeting does not begin until 8:00 and I was not welcome to attend until then. “But you all are here,” I said, noting that they were in fact meeting at 7:30 and that the Hollin Hills website shows the meeting beginning at 7:30. Koger-Jesup indicated she had changed the time on the web site this morning.

I knew that the DRC did not start seeing applicants until 8:00 and I was also aware that the DRC met starting at 7:30 to look over the plans and talk frankly about the applications. It is during this session, I knew from attending it in August, that much of the initial work of the committee takes place.

Standing outside the doors of the Hollin Meadows School building as we waited to be let in, Koger-Jesup and DRC chair Judah Ginsberg said that the committee needed some time to meet in closed session before meeting with applicants. I said that I appreciated this; that they would want some time to prepare before meeting with the applicants, but why couldn’t a civic association member observe this portion of the meeting? And was it a civic association approved policy to hold part of the meeting in private? No, it wasn’t, Koger-Jesup said. It only became their unofficial policy when people started “paying attention.”

So, I waited in the lobby as the DRC met privately and then, along with a few others, joined them at 8:00. Here are my unofficial notes of the meeting. If you only have a minute to read this, take note of the Nordok house case.

7221 Beechwood: Gibber/Harrington – Renovation
Approval with condition that the siding match. Neighbor notification done.

2312 Kimbro – Ogilvie/Altman -Windows
Major interior renovation, not really visible from the street. Reorienting the entire inside upstairs. DRC asked for side elevation and cut sheet on the casements. Conceptual approval pending.

7312 Rippon: Oliver – Masonry Repairs
All of the brick had been painted and is now in bad shape. Owner wants to put on a brick veneer. DRC asking for sample and explanation of what will happen where it returns back (this is a technical term I don’t quite understand). Not approved until more information received and assessed.

2320 Nordok: Rutledge – Shed
Prefab shed, nonconforming, ordered from Home Depot. Shed to rest on ground without pouring concrete. All DRC members seemed to agree that the shed was not in harmony or conformity with the house or community and they spent at least 20 minutes trying to persuade the applicants to do something else. Homeowners replied that they did not want to spend the money for a custom shed and that the shed would not be visible to any other neighbors and that they would remove some of the more offensive features. Applicants reported that neighbors were notified and raised no objections. Despite the DRC Guideline, from which one DRC member quoted, that says that “all non-attached structures should be in harmony with house and site,” DRC approved the structure in a 3 -2 vote. Two of those who voted to approve did so while voicing deep reluctance. The other DRC member who approved it suggested that the shed was not a permanent structure. (If the latter were the case, then the DRC may not have needed to vote on this at all – certainly a better outcome than starting a bad precedent.)
This observer would like to know whether all contiguous neighbors, including those behind the house on Nemeth Street, were notified and approved the Home Depot prefab shed.

Misc Issues & Items

There is now a sample notification letter to be sent to all contiguous neighbors and neighbors with sitelines of house.

Next meeting Wednesday Oct. 4, 8:00 p.m. Hollin Meadows ES library. (Though no doubt the DRC will actually begin meeting at 7:30. Other civic Association members not welcome until 8:00.)

In conclusion, I should say that I am not happy that I was turned away from the first part of the meeting. Certainly the reader can tell that I am a bit sore about this. I think it is really unfortunate that this happened. Apart from this, though, the DRC members themselves have been, especially during their last two meetings, very accommodating, cordial, and open to observers.

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8 Responses to “Paying Attention: Notes from Observing the September DRC Meeting”

  1. Kevin Huckshorn Says:

    I am a bit perplexed at your being turned away from the meeting also. Is this a private group with a LLC or PA? I thought they were supposed to be representing the community. In my view all meetings should be open, just like city council meetings or other kinds of community meetings. It is a big change for a group to suddenly get into the spotlight so this may be “growing up” pains. I think we should push for open meeting of the DRC, we pay to belong to this association and I assure we vote for these DRC reps? Thanks for attending Noelle. Right on. Regardless of Bush and our scary and embarrassing administration I think we are still a democracy? Right?

  2. barbara ward Says:

    I don’t think that it is helpful to any discussion in our community to compare people meeting in what is generally recognized and accepted as an executive session with an an assult on democracy. In my experience, both professionally and as a long-time member of the civic association and its board, I have found that there is always a need for quiet dialogue among colleagues – whether to ease a tension about a past decision or simply decide who brings the coffee for the next meeting. The DRC’s decisions are published, neighbors are notified.

    The recorded covenants require that the DRC make a decision about whether a design in in harmony and confirmity. The covenants do not require, and I will not participate in a process that allows 460 homeowners to approve my proposals for my property.

    Frankly, I have had enough of people using terms like “Democracy” to foster the sense that there is conspiracy everywhere in the community. There has been a lot more tension in this community over the past several months and I do not think that democracy or its lack have anything to do with it.

  3. Noelle McAfee Says:

    Barbara, I gather your remarks about democracy were directed to the previous comment. And I appreciate that you’re very weary of what seems to be causing a lot of acrimony. I certainly don’t mean to cause anything like this.

    I don’t thiink I have ever suggested there’s any kind of conspiracy nor would I advocate that design review pass through 460 homeowners!!! I just think the process should be transparent and neighbors should be able to observe the proceedings. The guidelines and bylaws seem to allow for this. If there’s a need for an executive session, the procedure for calling this should be stated clearly somewhere in the by laws or guidelines. That’s all.

  4. Pam Koger-Jesup Says:

    I would like to provide another viewpoint on the September 6 DRC meeting.

    Those of you who have known me during my 15 years in Hollin Hills will know that I would not have told ANYONE that they were not welcome. That being said, in the interest of honesty, I must admit that I also did not tell anyone that they WERE welcome.

    The DRC gathers informally for some time before the meeting begins in order to review project materials and discuss what areas should be reviewed with the homeowner.

    This is not a recent development. This process began in the fall of 2004 when it became clear that the review process was not well served by all discussion of materials being held in front of the homeowner.

    It was not until this spring, when people began asking to attend the meetings, that the issue of who should attend the “pre-session” arose. This is what we discussed as we were attempting to find someone to let us in to the school so that we would be ready to hold the meeting.

    Personally, I think that the review process benefits from the DRC members having the ability to reflect on and discuss design proposals in issues in private…as long as all votes are public. However, as I noted to Noelle at the time, this is perhaps an issue that is best addressed through the mechanism of the special DRC review committee…and certainly not one that will be resolved by browbeating our neighbors.

    As for the information listed on the calendar on the website (www.HollinHills.org), the 7:30 p.m. time for DRC has NEVER been listed there, as the committee was concerned that if the earlier start time was listed homeowners who had “just a quick project” would want to get scheduled into that time, leaving us no time for thoughtful reflection and discussion. What was added the day of the meeting was information about the specific homes on the agenda, not a change in the meeting time.

    I am not one of the people who moved to Hollin Hills for the design. My husband and I moved here 15 years ago because of the trees and the connection with nature. We have STAYED here because of the community, despite the quirks and inconveniences associated with living in a house that has a flat leaky roof, poorly insulated glass walls, and little security (due to those same glass walls). I hope that we will work just as hard to preserve COMMUNITY as we are working to preserve the design.

    Pam Koger-Jesup
    CAHH VP, DRC Liaison, Co-chair National Register Nomination Committee

  5. Pam Koger-Jesup Says:

    September 7. Update on the status of the proposed shed on 2320 Nordok. After listening to the concerns expressed by the committee, and examining various possibilities the homeowners have worked out an arrangement to have the roof of the shed changed to include a 12″ overhang on the front side to better blend with the Hollin Hills design. The homeowners found the review process to be helpful and informative.

  6. Cathy Krebs Says:

    In answer to Noelle McAfee’s query, we live next door to 2320 Nordok, and they did indeed notify us and gave us a photograph of the type of shed. In view of the facts that 1) no one can see the shed except the owners, and 2) sheds of this type are basically ephemeral, we found no reason to object.

  7. Liz Brigden Says:

    Barbara (and others), the mostly young, idealistic newcomers playing primary roles in this group do not wish the community or its members ill, however awkwardly they may have expressed their concerns at times. It is my belief that the community will ultimately thank rather than condemn them for bringing to our attention a certain amount of sloppiness toward and even unwitting abuse of the rules and procedures that govern and tie us together, none of which is attributable to either a conspiracy or any particular person, but more to time and our acquiescence. Chide them if you will for their tone or their impatience, but encourage their mission to clean house; it is a brave and admirable project.

  8. Liz Brigden Says:

    Pam: It concerns me greatly that you want or see it as appropriate to serve as a liaison to the DRC when you apparently feel such indifference toward or disdain for the architecture here (did you really mean that?). The house is a machine: all break down, not just those in Hollin Hills. In fact, our machines happen to have worked far better and longer than most. By the way, Bob Fina just did a quick fix of our roof, and so far, so good.


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