Civic Association of Hollin Hills

Design Review Process and Committee

What is the Design Review Committee?

The Civic Association of Hollin Hills Design Review Committee (DRC) is a group of architects and design experts who provide guidance to homeowners on proposed exterior property additions and renovations, and determine whether the plans are in harmony and conformity with the association's Design Review Guidelines.

The DRC meets on the third Wednesday of every month to:

    • Provide advice on design concepts
    • Review design plans
    • Monitor construction
    • Recommend action when unapproved construction is commenced or when construction departs from approved plans
    • Interview prospective DRC candidates and make recommendations to the CAHH Board
    • Update the Design Review Guidelines for community approval
    • Revise procedures as necessary 
Current DRC members include Barbara Ward, Chair; Harris Lokmanhakim; Robin Roberts; Jeff Vandersall; and Jane Pearson.

How Does the Design Review Process Work?

Planning a renovation or addition that will affect the exterior of your Hollin Hills home? Be sure to contact the Civic Association’s Design Review Committee (DRC) and the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board (ARB) before you begin, for guidance and approval of your plans. Both groups exist to help homeowners adhere to established guidelines and get building permits approved, avoid inappropriate development and legal issues, and preserve the architectural integrity of the community.

This guide sketches out the review process, with QR codes to all the documents you may need. Please contact the DRC for guidance or more information at email address: (new, update your contacts).  

Since 1950, exterior changes in Hollin Hills have been governed by the protective “covenants” in our property deeds – agreements by homeowners that they will subject plans for additions or alterations to the exteriors of their homes for approval from the Design Review Committee, in order to protect and preserve the stylistic character of Hollin Hills. The Covenants are enforced by the Civic Association through the Design Review Committee.

Additionally, since 2022, when Hollin Hills was designated an Historic Overlay District (HOD) by Fairfax County, any exterior renovations or additions that require a building permit must also be approved by the County’s ARB in order to receive that permit.

Therefore, homeowners need to get approval from both the DRC and the ARB before they begin work. The approval process is straightforward, and both the DRC and the ARB are committed to helping homeowners “get to yes” in the approval process, offering helpful guidance at every step of the way to ensure a successful outcome.

When you come before the ARB or the DRC, you’re getting free design services,” says Hollin Hills architect and ARB Board member John Burns. “It doesn’t have to be a difficult or contentious process.

What is the Design Review Committee?

The CAHH Design Review Committee is a group of Hollin Hills architects, design experts and homeowners who provide free guidance to homeowners on proposed exterior property additions and renovations, and determine whether the plans are in harmony and conformity with the Hollin Hills Design Review Guidelines. First established in 1949 as the “Architectural Control Committee,” the DRC was renamed the “Architectural Review Committee” in 1955, and renamed again in 1987 as the Design Review Committee. The DRC‘s remit extends not only to projects requiring a building permit, but also to any project that impacts a property’s exterior appearance.

What is the Architectural Review Board?

The Fairfax County Architectural Review Board was established in 1967 to oversee and administer regulations concerning certain physical changes and uses within the County’s Historic Overlay Districts. Its job is to protect and enhance the resources that give an HOD its historic, architectural, or archaeological significance. Any exterior renovations in an HOD that require a building permit must be approved by the ARB before the permit is granted. Hollin Hills is an HOD, so homeowners must have their plans approved by the ARB.

How Does the Review Process Work?

Both the DRC and the ARB take a two-tiered approach to the review process. The DRC Guidelines require an initial review to provide the homeowner with feedback concerning the proposed design. Similarly, the ARB encourages homeowners to participate in an informal “workshop” during which board members note any concerns that they may have.

A goal of these initial reviews for both the DRC and the ARB is to provide direction before the homeowner spends the considerable amount necessary to produce the construction-ready documents required for final approvals. The DRC’s and ARB’s first-round comments should be incorporated into the final architectural drawings that are submitted to both groups for final approval.

After changes are incorporated into the construction-ready plans, the plans are submitted to the ARB and DRC for final review. To get a final plan approval from the ARB and qualify for a building permit, applicants must go through a formal review process where they submit construction drawings in advance for consideration as an “action item” at an ARB meeting, where the applicant answers questions, public comment is allowed, and a vote is taken. (The ARB meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month.)

A similar procedure is followed by the DRC, as outlined below.

How do I begin?

Homeowners are encouraged to go through the DRC review process first, before going to the ARB for permit approval. If you’re considering a project, please begin by consulting the DRC’s Design Review Guidelines to learn which requirements may be applicable to your project. The Guidelines offer very specific guidance concerning doors, windows, roofs, decks, and so on. For projects which involve an architect, please make sure your architect has reviewed the Guidelines, too.

The ARB and the DRC offer different kinds of guidance, with the DRC stressing conformity and harmony, and the ARB taking a “differentiatedbut compatible” approach. So it’s important to also consult the “Hollin Hills HOD Design Guidelines,” a detailed document that lays out recommendations for any design changes.

Where do I find these documents?

The Design Review Guidelines, the HOD Design Guidelines, and all other documents and forms needed for design review can be found on the Hollin Hills website in the Governance Documents section.

Preparing Your Plans for Review

When you’re ready to meet with the DRC for an initial review of your project, contact them at  The DRC meets the third Wednesday of every month. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. and are held via Zoom.

At least 10 days prior to the meeting, please send the DRC your project plans, a plat, an aerial photo of the property showing the property as well as immediate neighbors (these are available from the Fairfax County website), photos of existing conditions, elevations of the proposed renovation and/or addition, and a copy of the informational letter sent to neighbors, with a list of neighbors notified.

The homeowner should make sure that the submission illustrates what they want to do, and where on the property the project will be placed. For example, if you are building or replacing a deck, the DRC needs a drawing indicating where the deck will go (the plat is helpful), pictures of the proposed decking material and railings, and a sketch of the deck’s design.

If you have submitted materials for the DRC’s consideration, a Zoom link will be provided a few days before the meeting. You, your architect or your builder should be prepared to present the project by sharing your screen and presenting the plat, photos, and elevations describing the proposed project. (If you are interested in participating in a meeting, either to comment or to see how the DRC conducts its business, please email the DRC and you will receive a zoom link for the meeting.)

The Different Types of Review

The extent of DRC’s review process is dependent upon the impact and scale of the proposed project. Projects with a minimal impact (for example a change of roofing materials, or a new driveway) usually qualify for Administrative ReviewDecks, sheds and fences are typical projects requiring the Standard Review process. In most cases, the DRC can make a decision about these proposals at the first meeting.

However, a significant change to the appearance of the house created by the addition of new rooms or a second story requires the DRC to follow the procedures of Expanded Review, which requires at least two meetings. The two-meeting requirement allows the homeowner to obtain immediate feedback concerning the proposed project, without preparing the costly architectural drawings associated with final review. Nonetheless, even at the first meeting, the homeowner should provide drawings that are specific enough for the DRC to understand the proposal and its impact. In some cases, the DRC will ask to visit the property.

Final Review and Approval: requires architectural drawings that are construction ready. Materials samples and product sheets should be provided for all windows, siding, doors, etc.

For projects requiring Standard or Expanded Review, the Guidelines require that neighbors be notified of the project and provided with the opportunity to review the plans prior to a first meeting with the DRC. Very often a project may change lines of sight or reduce privacy, and our sense of community is enhanced when neighbors are notified of a change that will impact them in some way. The DRC has, on occasion, acted as a “broker” to achieve a design that meets the needs of the project proponent as well as the neighbor’s needs.

Finally, in addition to more formal reviews of proposed projects, the DRC is always willing to have an informal discussion with homeowners prior to the formal submission of plans for DRC review, or you can submit questions by email to:

The Design Review Process in a Nutshell

  1. Review the Design Review Guidelines. The Guidelines provide detailed information about the review process, including the types of materials that must be submitted to the DRC and forms for notifying neighbors. If you have any questions about the process, please contact the DRC for direction.

  2. When developing your plan, keep in the mind the defining features of any Hollin Hills house. These include but are not limited to: (a) the siting of the project, i.e., structures should “hug the land,” and take into consideration the addition’s relationship with existing houses; (b) façade design should be simple, employing squares and rectangles; (c) floor-to-ceiling windows are favored, with thin, unobtrusive frames; and (d) roofs should be low slope, flat or butterfly design.

  3. The extent of the DRC’s review process is dependent on the impact and scale of the proposed project. There are three possible types of review:

    a) Administrative Review: for projects that have only a minor impact on the existing structure. 

    If you believe that your project falls into this category, please provide the DRC with a detailed description of the project and any available documentation that further explains the project.   The DRC will review the information to determine if Administrative Review is appropriate and make a decision.  This review can be accomplished outside of the DRC’s usual monthly schedule.

    b) Standard Review: for projects that will significantly change the property’s appearance, including sheds, decks, and fences.

    c) Expanded Review: for projects that will have a major impact on the appearance of the project.  Projects in this category usually include the addition of a new room, a second story or new construction. All projects requiring expanded review must be presented to the DRC in at least two separate meetings, one to receive conceptual review for the project and one to receive final approval. 

    To do this, please provide the DRC with descriptive materials at least 10 days prior to the DRC’s monthly meeting, which takes place on the second Wednesday of each month.  The information should convey the full scope and details of the project.  Neighbors must receive written notification of the proposed project.  (See a sample notification letter.)

    Projects requiring standard or expanded review are considered at the DRC’s monthly meeting, and the homeowner or a representative must attend.  After conceptual approval has been obtained, the homeowner may submit the project for final approval.  The Guidelines describe the materials that should be submitted to support a request for final approval.  

  4. Email the DRC to request informal feedback on your initial plans, and to determine if you should seek conceptual approval at an upcoming DRC meeting.

  5. Formally notify any neighbor who will be able to see your final renovation in writing, with information about construction times. Email the DRC a copy of the letter and a list of the neighbors it was sent to.

  6. For Standard or Expanded Review, attend a DRC meeting to present your initial plans for DRC consultation and conceptual approval.

  7. Based on conceptual approval, create your Project Application Packet with materials that show location, elevations, materials, and colors. These can be detailed sketches with photographs and/or formal architectural drawings.
  8. Email your Project Application Packet to the DRC at least ten calendar days prior to the monthly DRC meeting at which you wish to present your formal request for review.

  9. Present (or have your architect present) your project at the scheduled DRC meeting. If your project is approved, complete step 10. If not, revise your Project Submission Packet based on DRC feedback, and repeat steps 8 and 9.

  10. Post your DRC-issued Approval Placard in a clearly visible spot on the front of your house. Keep the DRC notified of construction progress. Meet with DRC members who may request visits to monitor the project progress and adherence to DRC-approved plans.

  11.  All DRC-approved projects are subject to and must comply with Fairfax County building regulations, policies, and codes. Homeowners should complete appropriate County permit processes prior to the start of any renovations.

The “Historic Overlay District” Designation Explained
Fairfax County Map of Hollin Hills Historic Overlay District

On March 8, 2022, Hollin Hills was designated by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors as an Historic Overlay District – an important move that will help preserve our unique architectural heritage, stave off “McMansion”-type development, and protect the financial value of our homes.

HOD status is designed to “protect areas, sites, and buildings that meet recognized standards of architectural and historic significance” by providing regulations over and above the regular zoning protection for such areas.

The designation means that any building project affecting the exterior of a structure that requires a building permit must have relevant design elements approved by the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board (ARB), before the County will issue a building permit. It adds a powerful level of protection for the legacy of Charles Goodman, the architect of Hollin Hills and one of the most innovative and influential architects of the postwar period in America.

The vote came after unanimous support for the HOD in February by the Fairfax County History Commission, the Architectural Review Board, and the County Planning Commission. Many Hollin Hills residents also wrote in support, and the HOD designation was supported by a four-to-one majority in a community survey in 2021.

Protecting Our Architectural Heritage: The History of Design Review in Hollin Hills

"One of the most difficult governance tasks is upholding our neighborhood's unique architectural design standards. Lose our distinctive look and we lose our neighborhood's soul, its raison d'être. Yet, insist too stringently upon an inflexible code and we will drive away all who hope not only to preserve what we have but also to improve it. Striking a balance between community obligations and the rights of property owners is a delicate and sometimes divisive and unpleasant task, but an inescapable responsibility of governance."

Hollin Hills: Community of Vision

From the beginning, Hollin Hills deeds have contained a restrictive covenant governing the design of all new structures, additions and alterations, including fences, sheds, and the like. They were put in place to preserve our distinctive architectural heritage and, ultimately, to protect our property values.

The concept of architectural review by a group of community members was a novelty in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It also was fundamental to developer Robert Davenport's “community of vision.” Hollin Hills has maintained its contemporary design integrity through consistent, fair application of the original design philosophy and the shared vision of its residents throughout the years.

In Hollin Hills, that process initially took shape under the Architectural Control Committee, created by Davenport to ensure that any new structure in Hollin Hills home would meet the developer's definition of "harmony and conformity" with other community structures.

The committee members were Davenport and Hollin Hills investors Morris and Samuel J. Rodman. Hollin Hills lot owners requested countless changes in their homes during the first years of construction. Davenport determined the appropriateness of those changes. If they were basic design decisions — and he approved — Davenport turned them over to Hollin Hills architect Charles Goodman for review. A number of the requested changes became standard in future home design

A brief chronology


The Architectural Control Committee (ACC) is created by developer Robert Davenport to ensure that any new structure in Hollin Hills homes would meet his definition of "harmony and conformity. Davenport is joined by brothers Morris and Samuel Rodman, investors in the development.


The civic association takes over responsibility for enforcing the covenants’ strictures from the neighborhood's founding fathers in October, when the general membership votes 44-2 to create a "Committee on Structures."


The powers of the original ACC  are transferred to a newly created body, the Architectural Review Committee (ARC), which consists of residents appointed by the civic association board. Rules of Compliance were announced in September.


Hollin HIlls enjoys an era of cooperation and interest in the neighborhood's design integrity. Occasionally, residents built sheds or carports without ARC approval. But, for the most part, homeowners followed the design review process. However, with the onset of the 1970’s, the era of cooperation began to fade. The relative affordability of houses in the neighborhood attracted home buyers who did not always share in Davenport's and Goodman's aesthetic. Some ignored the design review process and built unapproved additions.


Civic Association Board President Eason Cross, Jr., an associate in Hollin Hills architect Charles Goodman's office, publishes a series of articles about Hollin Hills architecture in the Hollin Hills Bulletin. The articles described the intentions of the architect and developer Davenport. The series was aimed at new residents to give them perspective on the importance of Hollin Hills' architecture and preserving it through the ARC and the design review process.


In the early 1980’s, the ARC asked the civic association board to review its covenant authority and renew the community's commitment to architectural review by strengthening the existing design review process.

The board reviewed the covenant authority in every section of Hollin Hills. Where authority had lapsed, it began a legal reinstatement process in which every homeowner was asked to sign a reinstatement of authority of the covenants. This initiative resulted in 95 percent coverage by the ARC. Through additional board action, all sections of the neighborhood are now required to follow the design review process without the need for periodic re-approval.


In June, the civic association board re-organized the ARC, increasing its membership to five, with three-year, staggered terms. Committee membership was now required to include two architects, a lawyer and two lay members. The newly appointed ARC was charged with drafting standards, guidelines and procedures.


The new committee was quickly put to the test, when a family challenged the authority of the design review process. At that time, no systematic appeal process was in effect. The family submitted initial plans for an addition and a garage that did not receive ARC approval. The plans provoked the most intense debate in Hollin Hills history. ARC and homeowner discussions continued for a year but could not be resolved.

 During the debate, the ARC mailed each household a copy of the restrictive covenant language in their deeds, putting the community on notice that it intended to enforce its mission, stoking the neighborhood debate even further.

Positions hardened, and both the civic association and homeowner retained attorneys. The debate finally came to a head in October in a general membership meeting. Members passed a motion 167-28 that called for both sides to halt legal action and find a compromise. The meeting also approved a formal review of the design review standards and processes. A broad-based committee was established, the Design Review Guidelines Study Committee.

The study committee worked for eight months to develop a set of guidelines. It conducted a community-wide opinion survey to assess residents’ attitudes about the design review process. In addition, residents were interviewed and other communities with strong architectural review programs were studied.


A settlement of the dispute was announced in June. The homeowner's planned addition was built, the garage was not.

Modified design review rules also were adopted at a general community meeting that same month. The resulting Design Review Guidelines became the basis for all future design reviews. The Design Review Committee (DRC) was formed to replace the ARC. Its membership required both architects and other design professionals, as well as non-design members.

 Mid 1990’s

Once again, the community observed that the DRC had begun operating more zealously than desired by the community, and with less design authority, since the relative number of architects had decreased.

To address the community's concerns about the validity of the guidelines, the board appointed a citizens’ Design Review Study Group to recommend possible procedural changes. Extensive community canvassing, research and review ensued. The study group concluded that while the process was not perfect, approximately 70 percent of residents still supported the DRC and design review. The study committee issued an extensive findings report in November of 1997.

Civic Association of Hollin Hills (CAHH)
is a 501(c)7 non-profit, social and recreational organization.
1600 Paul Spring Rd.
Alexandria, VA 22307
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