DUNEDIN – Developers hoping to build projects in Dunedin will soon have to have the look and design of their structure approved by an Architectural Review Committee, which will judge whether their proposed development fits in with the style and character of the neighborhood or commercial district.

According to city planning staff, the Architectural Review Committee will make recommendations and advise the City Commission on projects seeking approval. The committee’s primary duties will be to establish architectural guidelines and requirements for architects and developers, who seek to build both commercial or residential projects anywhere in the city.

The Architectural Committee will be composed of professional architects, planners, landscape architects, or interior designers. At least three of its members will have to be architects. The board also will have to include at least one landscape architect and an interior designer. Its members will be eligible to serve two 3-year terms.

Members of the committee will review, comment and make recommendations regarding architectural style to the City Commission on projects requiring site review approval. They also will review compatibility with surrounding structures, provide corridor design evaluations. This design review will be in addition to a project going before the Local Planning Agency for its input, recommendation and approval.

Greg Rice, planning director, said the city’s revamped development code looked at architectural review “utilizing a series of principals over the last few years that has not worked well.”

He said staff now wants to “go with more specific guidelines. True experts on the Committee will guide staff with design. We need some architectural guidance.”

City Manager Jennifer Bramley said while some may voice concern that an additional committee will slow down development projects, this committee will complement review process.

“It won’t slow projects down significantly or all that much,” she said.

The committee will be “more of collaboration than a contact sport.”

“This city has specific needs as far as the characters of its corridors,” she added. The committee will give the commission the architectural expertise it needs to judge projects that come before it.

Commissioner Maureen Freaney, who approved of the concept, said her only concern is that those chosen for the committee do not have conflicts or loyalties that will cause them not to want to hurt another architect’s feelings. She asked how do you navigate and avoid conflicts between varied campuses of people who have different loyalties.

“If it helps developers understand what we are looking for, I’m in favor of giving it a shot,” Freaney said, adding “the concept is good” and she is happy that the city manager has expertise in working with architectural review committees.

Bramley noted she is surprised at the number of architects in Dunedin who will be able to serve on the architectural committee. She noted some even have no business interest in the city. She said she and staff will keep an eye on the committee so it retains an atmosphere of collaboration and doesn’t get dictatorial.

Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said “the city is trying something new to see if it will work. We had a number of not so attractive projects come before us and we did not know what to do. This committee will solve that automatically. We all take baby steps. This will not take our voice away; that is our job, we are the judge in a development project.”

The mayor noted a committee could help eliminate thoughts of “how did this venture make it here? How did it get through LPA? The community wants to see higher quality projects come forward.”

Commissioner Deborah Kynes said she “would welcome that third party expertise.”

Commissioner John Tornga said he looks forward to trying it and see how it works as just another supportive element.

Commissioner Heather Gracy said she was “semi supportive” of the idea to form an architectural committee, because of potential of political conflicts that could exist. She added she would like to hear comments from the Local Planning Agency before the second and final hearing.

The commission will hold a hearing and second reading on whether to form the Committee at the City Commission’s regular meeting on Thursday, May 17, 6 p.m.