A Historic Overlay District won’t stop renovations in Holmes Run Acres

The owners of this house retained its original character while adding a foyer where the carport used to be and installing a new carport next to it. This kind of renovation would likely be approved by the Architectural Review Board.

If a Historic Overlay District is created in Holmes Run Acres, homeowners interested in remodeling could still do so – without violating the terms of the HOD designation.

Holmes Run Acres (HRA) is a neighborhood full of mid-century modern homes characterized by lots of wood and glass. It’s located off Gallows Road in Mason District just inside the beltway.

Related story: Historic Overlay District proposed for Holmes Run Acres

The HOD proposal has sharply divided residents, with some homeowners arguing an HOD would drive up remodeling costs, while others say the designation is important to protect the character of the neighborhood and prevent out-of-place mcmansions.

This wildly out-of-character house started the debate about a potential HOD, as some residents fear it will have a domino effect, encouraging homebuyers to tear down smaller homes and build more mcmansions.

Nearly all of the HRA homes have been modified to some extent. A tour of the neighborhood shows many of the renovations already undertaken would still be approved if they were proposed after an HOD is established.

This Holmes Run Acres house has been remodeled – with new windows and stone instead of brick – and has a large addition in the back not visible from the street – but still conforms to the character of the neighborhood.

County staff determined that just 58 homes – out of approximately 355 – are “non-contributing” to the HOD, meaning some aspects of the design would not add to the historic significance of the proposed HOD.

The results of a survey of residents on whether they want an HOD or not are expected to be announced in October.

This house, rebuilt after a fire, retains a shallow-sloped roof, deep overhangs, large windows, and modest scale.

The Fairfax County Planning Department is working on a Comprehensive Plan Amendment specifying how an HOD would work in Holmes Run Acres. The staff report is expected to be issued in early 2023. The Board of Supervisors would ultimately decide if an HOD should be established.

Related story: Let’s preserve the unique character of Holmes Run Acres

If an HOD is created, homeowners who want to renovate or expand a house would be required to submit their plans to an Architectural Review Board. The ARB could suggest revisions to ensure it complies with the HOD. If the plan is rejected, homeowners could appeal. That process could add to the cost of remodeling.

This house retains the original character, but if an HOD was established, the ARB might have suggested some changes in the design of the addition under construction.

The original houses in HRA, built over several years in the 1950s, had large windows, post-and-beam construction, no ornamentation. low sloped roofs with wide overhangs, prominent chimneys, open floor plans, and carports with thin columns.

Even though this house was remodeled using brick and wood, it’s too different from the original design to be considered “contributing.”

The key element of the community’s design is its relationship to nature. Trees were preserved to the extent possible, and the homes were sited on lots to fit in with the natural topography and provide maximum privacy.

This house fits in with the character of the neighborhood.

The ARB would only consider exterior renovations visible from the street. Interior renovations or exterior projects in the rear of the house hidden from view would not be affected.  

The ARB would not require homeowners to use original materials from the 1950s or follow strict guidelines on paint color.

This house addition is taller but still takes cues from the original architecture and is recognizable as a Holmes Run Acres home

There are some homes in the neighborhood that were doubled in size that are still considered “contributing” to the character of the neighborhood because they incorporated elements from the original design.     

The homes were actually designed with the idea that they would be expanded, architect Francis Lethbridge stated in a 1987 interview.

A Historic Overlay District won’t stop renovations in Holmes Run Acres