Don’t fear the Whitefish Bay ARC. Use our guide to help win approval.
Speak with any Whitefish Bay residence about remodeling their home, and they likely have a negative story about the architectural review commission (or ARC). But the experience need not be negative. At Hoffmans Architecture, we’ve created a users’ guide to assist our clients with obtaining an ARC approval without compromising their design goals.
An Overview-Municipal Code and Architectural Review Commission
But first, just what is an architectural review? Before getting a building permit for new construction or an exterior modification to you home in Whitefish Bay, you must get an architectural review commission (ARC) approval. Section 16.21 of the Village Ordinances outlines the ARC’s responsibility (Village Ordinances Section 16), while the residential design guidelines are outlined in Section 16.31. It’s important to be aware of and understand any constraints the guidelines might have on your property. The guidelines primarily emphasize neighborhood patterns, such as building heights, front yard setbacks, garage location (attached verses free-standing), entries and porches, building scale / massing, and architectural style.
At Hoffmans Architecture, we advise clients to get, if they can, their neighbor’s support or at least partial support ahead of time. ARC, like most public approval boards, considers neighbors’ support, or non-support, in their decision-making process. The more support you can get increases your approval odds. By engaging your neighbors early in the design process, you increase your odds at addressing their needs or concerns without compromising your goals. Keep in mind, they will always have a chance to air their complaints during the ARC public review.
For our clients, we have reached out to neighbors on their behalf, and have gotten written approvals that are submitted during ARC hearings.
Observe an ARC Hearing
To understand how the ARC reviews a project, simply visit a hearing—it’s best to observe a project similar in scope to your project. The Village’s website posts the upcoming meeting agenda as well as previous decisions (ARC Meeting Agenda). Based on the board’s comments, you can start to gauge how they might respond to your project. Keep in mind, as board members change, so will the critique.
Having a design that addresses the Village’s design guidelines and has neighbor support doesn’t mean you’ll receive a complete ARC approval. The board can add items as conditions of approval, such as material requests, adding or removing windows, or even a roof slope change. Therefore, it is wise to consider design contingencies before an ARC meeting. Be prepared to get an approval with a compromise, versus getting no approval and having to resubmit at a later date. (In other words, get whatever approval you can get at that time.) This will allow the project to move forward, and for construction to start (pending permit approval). You can always revisit the board later with an alternative solution. And there’s another option to consider—appealing.
Board of Appeals
The board of appeals allows a property owner the opportunity to appeal any Village board or administrative decision. This approach can be productive in addressing an ARC decision or condition of approval item irreconcilable to an owner.