Letter to the Editor: Think carefully before combining BARs

Letter to the Editor: Think carefully before combining BARs
Robert Ray at his Old Town shop, Cavalier Antiques (Photo Credit: Alexa Epitropoulos)

To the editor:

At the April city council legislative session, Vice Mayor Justin Wilson and Councilor Paul Smedberg submitted a proposal to consolidate the Old and Historic Board of Architectural Review, established in 1946, with the Parker-Gray Board of Architectural Review, created in 1984. The reason stated for the proposal during the meeting was that the docket of the Parker-Gray BAR has been reduced because of administrative approvals and that this would reduce staff time necessary and increase efficiency.

Mayor Allison Silberberg spoke first saying, “These are two distinct entities,” and that “it requires much more public input.” Councilor Del Pepper said she was “not very enthusiastic” and needed “more input from stakeholders” and did not like that a “proposal was sprung on us.”

I observed that no consideration in the discussion seemed to be given to the significant history of these two entities, the fact that they have different criteria and have different missions to preserve structures from different eras. The Old and Historic was created to preserve colonial history and sites related to George Washington and is overlapped by three National Register Districts. Parker-Gray is preserving primarily African American History.

I would have thought that council would have been more respectful of the progress the city has made in recognizing the contributions of African American history. It would have been much better if both BARs and other historical organizations had presented at the meeting and if the request to merge had come from them. It also would be more reassuring to the public if this proposal’s real goal was not to dismantle institutions that protect the architectural character of our neighborhoods.

-Robert Ray, candidate, Alexandria City Council