Monroe Architectural Review Board focuses on aesthetics

Maintaining the rural character and charm of Monroe is one of the goals of the Architecture Review Board (ARB.) However, as an advisory board, its members may only make recommendations about proposed projects to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z).

“They do not do approvals,” said Jim Sandor, the town’s chief building official. “They are not a voting board.”

However, any applicant submitting proposals for a nonresidential development to the P&Z must also provide a copy of the application to the Architectural Review Board. Within 30 days after receiving this information or prior to the closing of the P&Z public hearing on the proposed project, the ARB submits its recommendations to the zoning board.

The first selectman appoints five residents, including one architectural design professional, to the ARB. They each serve a three-year term.

Current members are Chairman John Rosen, Raymond Ganser, Joyce Mumm, Nancy Steinborn and Michael Vitello.

Town Clerk Marsha Motter Beno said Rosen, Mumm and Steinborn have been on the board since 2003.

“They’re a viable board and they’ve done valuable work,” Beno said. “They’re planning things out and trying to make things aesthetically pleasing. It’s made a difference in the town. I think they’ve done a terrific job.”


Board was created in 1998

Bylaws for the ARB, or Architectural Review Committee as it was originally known, were adopted on May 26, 1998.

Through the years, Beno said the board has acquired “more teeth” as it has been called upon to make suggestions for applications reviewed by land-use officials.

According to the town charter, the ARB’s purpose is “to raise the general aesthetic level of the building development in town by reviewing proposals for new nonresidential buildings, alterations or additions and by promulgating regulations concerning the aesthetics for building design and site layout, to be submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration and approval.”


‘Step one’ in the process

P&Z Chairman Patrick O’Hara described the ARB as “step one” for an applicant with a nonresidential proposal. Using standards set by the zoning board, ARB members will work closely with applicants on their initial ideas and then assist in tweaking the proposal.

The ARB then sends the project back to the P&Z for review. O’Hara said former P&Z Chairman Richard Zini was “strict” about emphasizing to applicants that ARB’s referral was indicative of the P&Z’s “approval.”

“In the end, the P&Z has the final say,” O’Hara said. “The beauty of having an Architectural Review Board is that is what they do — they make recommendations.”

The P&Z is a regulatory land-use board, which means it formally approves or rejects applications.


Board offers input

David Killeen, who served as Monroe planning administrator for about a year before recently stepping down, said he saw the benefits offered by having the ARB.

“The P&Z will carefully review and consider comments made by the ARB,” Killeen said. “It’s important for [the P&Z] to approve development that enhances the appearance of the town of Monroe, and they very much look for the comments made by the ARB.”

Killeen said that it’s not uncommon for the ARB to stipulate that certain modifications be made to a building proposal in order to receive the advisory board’s recommendations.

The ARB meets twice a month, on Tuesdays at 7:45 p.m.

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