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Architectural Control Committees (ACC)

Architectural Control Committees (ACC)



The Brickyard Creek ACC (Architectural Control Committee)

A community can be the few homes at the end of a cul-de-sac, a neighborhood comprised of a few city blocks, a single development, a village, or a region. This article, though dedicated to Brickyard Creek, allows that all definitions are applicable.

The easiest way to create and control thoughtful planning of a community is through a single owner with a single vision; unrealistic when most communities are made up of multiple owners with varying, or little, vision. The challenge of every community is to get multiple owners to share a single vision. A few do. Some never try. Others fail miserably, having underestimated the commitment and effort required to create a meaningful and lasting identity.

How is it that some places you walk or drive through have a feeling of warmth and radiate a sense of belonging, so much so you find yourself thinking, “I could live here.”; while other places  elicit no human emotion other than one that causes you to ask, “How do I get out of here?”

Places where you feel uncomfortable are void of architectural organization and are usually communities that may have been planned with good intentions but didn’t possess sufficient panning control to survive an onslaught of disconnected architects, developers or buyers who think only of their own property instead of how they might best fit into the surrounding architectural landscape. They fail to become a vibrant community based on integrity and character and often fall into neglect, abandonment or partial abandonment.

Then there are the communities throughout the US, frequently located within or near outstanding natural environments that have yet to realize their full potential as relevant and sought after-status. They have positive attributes but are sprinkled with disjointed planning and sterile pockets of architecture. They are in architectural and planning limbo—waiting for somebody or something to stimulate the resident’s awareness of place and to start to identify, expand and protect its character.

If you’ve been to places like Woodstock, Vermont; Bar Harbor, Maine; Old Town Alexandria, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; Seaside, Florida; Carmel, California; or countless newer neighborhoods and small communities that have been smartly developed to give residents and visitors a unique experience—you know how special and inviting a community can be. You’ll also learn, upon inquiry, how expensive homes and rental are within these communities.

These communities share many common characteristics:

First is a strong sense of place. They never try to be all things to all people. They know what they are—and what they are not. They are not models of perfection, not contrived, Disneyesque developments where homogeneous architecture and topiary rules the landscape, like so many emotionally sterile gated communities developers have given the world in the past couple of decades. The identity associated with these communities is so powerful there is no need to hide their blemishes; on the contrary, the blemishes become part of what makes the community authentic.

Second is pride of community. With a clear identity and vision firmly in place, many residents become fiercely protective of their community.

Third are thoughtful rules and guidelines that help guide new residents, or forgetful older residents, as to how to make their homes fit into the community. Rarely needed when many historic communities were founded because of an inherent understanding and pride in the architecture at the time, rules were later introduced by committed residents who felt the need to retain the character of their community and to govern unwanted and unwelcomed distracting structures, whether by design or scale, into the community.

This brings up the fourth common characteristic—the will to fairly enforce rules and guidelines.

Most modern developments have architectural guidelines set up by the developer and mandate enforcement by the condo or homeowner’s association through committee sometimes called Board of Architectural Review (BAR), an Architectural Review Board (ARB) or, as in the case at Brickyard Creek, the Architectural Control Committee (ACC). Not all communities start with a clear identity or vision from which to formulate guidelines that help mold them into vibrant and relevant neighborhoods and many are made weaker by committee membership that is unengaged or lacks experience or willingness to execute. Likewise, not all residents within a community understand the importance of architectural consistency and choose not to comply with or skirt guidelines.

A well-charged and engaged Architectural Control Committee protects value, identity and architectural integrity while simultaneously ensuring a sense of place, the comfort of surroundings and the overall health of the community it serves. This is the continuous goal of the Brickyard Creek ACC.

Fortunately, Brickyard Creek has a clear identity, set in place by the developers and furthered by the many of its residents, committees and board of directors. It has also an Architectural Control Committee that uses the property’s guidelines to help ensure that there is no disruption in overall character of the community and tries to eliminate visual blights or disruptive details that are black eyes to the community.

Specific to Brickyard Creek, obvious examples of visual blight include:

  • Trash or construction materials strew around a house or cottage
  • Out of place plastic or metal storage buildings when every other structure is wood
  • Colors not blending into the natural surrounding
  • Buildings not buffered to blend in the landscape (abrupt two story walls, massive roof lines…
  • Unmaintained exteriors (stain, walkways, invasive weed control)
  • Any signage, other than fire numbers outside cottages, which, other than temporary, specifically designed sale signs, are not allowed by the Declarations and By-laws


Less obvious is the disregard of architectural integrity. Some like to think that architecture is subjective, therefore not manageable or controllable. Nothing could be further from reality. How we see is a learned response that has taken us from the Neolithic age 12,000 years ago to present. Patterns, colors and scale elicit consistent human emotions—blue hues are cool, red hues warm; horizontal lines are more relaxing than lines that are vertical or diagonal. Unbalanced shapes beg to be completed, similar to dissonant chords in music that need to be followed with a consonant chord to bring the musical piece to a satisfactory conclusion.

Every day we see examples of architecture that are pleasing to look at, and other details that are clunky and seemingly out of place. Unless trained in architecture, most people find it hard to articulate why a design works or doesn’t work in their minds, but
that doesn’t mean that architecture is not a science based on human emotion, scale and proportion. Leonardo De Vinci’s drawing of Vitruvian Man best demonstrates how much humans understand architecture. The drawing is based on the teachings of Rome’s Vitruvius, who taught us that architecture is an imitation of nature and nature’s designs are based on universal laws of proportion and symmetry. He also wisely brought up the concept that buildings need to be beautiful, stable and useful.

Brickyard Creek’s ACC has one primary charge—to protect the community by enhancing and enforcing, if needed, the vision as defined originally by the developers and further implemented by the community and the Board of Directors.

Different than typical condominium neighborhoods, where buildings have homogenous common walls and roofs, and where the existing landscape was scraped away and replanted, Brickyard’s Vision specifically prioritizes our natural environment, presenting a unique challenge to the ACC with respect to architectural control.

The ACC looks at all man-made structures within the environment as guests, guests that need to be respectful of their host—Mother Nature. Though the developers chose Arts and Crafts style architecture for the cottages because of its prominence in the region at the time of its economic heyday, Brickyard Creek residents should understand that our community is not just about architecture. It’s about peaceful co-mingling of humans and nature; and, unlike urban or suburban environments, there are no architectural statements to make with the exception that all structures are to blend into nature as much as possible.

Some typical ACC expectations are:

  • Egress steps from screened porches should not promote expanded living spaces at the porch level. If a living space is desired off the porch, it needs to be at ground level so that neighbors and trail hikers don’t see additional porch detail with rails.
  • Garages and guest houses are not automatically approved per cottage site. Their addition to the immediate area is predicated on topography, hydrology, vegetation and visibility by neighbors, roads and trails.
  • Any new addition will require similar (cedar or comparable) exterior finishes and stain colors that compliment nature.
  • Exterior light fixtures, doors and windows, if changed from the original and not consistent with our architectural style, will need to be changed.


It is critical that every resident of a community understand that the short and long-term value of an individual’s home or cottage is directly related to the appearance, condition and the aesthetics of the community it resides in—and a community without a clear identity and effective architectural control risks slipping into mediocrity, if it hadn’t already started that way, and property values will be judged accordingly.

Further, in a typical condominium property, owners would automatically be charged for exterior maintenance through monthly association fees. At Brickyard Creek each owner has a responsibility to themselves, their neighbors and our community to present their home or cotta
ge in the best light possible and to not encroach on the surrounding natural landscape any more than is necessary for a simply but comfortable living experience. The effort will result in a continuing high-quality community and greater economic success with respect to property values and rental rates.

Many residents of Brickyard Creek have embraced our vision and feel that a strong Architectural Control Committee, one that prioritizes the good of the community over the needs of any individual owner, enhances our value financially and as a relevant community. Visitors and many new owners are thrilled to have stumbled into our neighborhood and it’s easy to see why. We have set a great example of sustainable development and community engagement and I have heard several within our community talk of legacy, something every resident would be
proud to have been part of.

Legacy? Maybe. But it will take more than a few residents to see that lofty goal through to fruition. It will take an effort from all residents, and it starts with understanding our vision, fiercely protecting it, promoting it within and beyond our property and then simply enjoying what we have built.



Architectural Control Committees (ACC)

A Short History of Brickyard Creek

A Short History of Brickyard Creek

Featured in the Boreal Forest Citizen Fall/Winter 2006/7 Vol. 1

Sitting very comfortably in the trade winds at my Caribbean home, I struggled to envision the North Woods. My partner, Bob, a real estate attorney from Minneapolis and on St. John to work with me on an eco-tour resort, was describing land he had been purchasing near Bayfield, Wisconsin. All I really knew from my geography books was that Bayfield was on Lake Superior, somewhere near the tundra.  As Bob talked, I pictured a charming cottage nestled beneath the canopy of giant pines, surrounded with wild flowers, bear and wolves—kind of like Little Red Riding Hood’s house. Between sips of wine I wondered why most of Bob’s working trips to the tropics were in the winter. I wished him good luck with the investment and we moved on to island business.

I didn’t give the North Woods much thought after that, happy to be living in a place that never, in the darkest night in the middle of winter, saw a temperature reading below 63 F—ever. Little did I know that two kids later and with a lot of pressure from my now ex- wife, I would be moving back to America. After 15 years in the Caribbean I landed in Northern Virginia with boxes of flip-flops, spearguns and other useless tropical artifacts.

Bob invited me to Bayfield to help him figure out what to do with his North Woods properties he had purchased. He told me that the only thing he knew for sure was that he was going to build a marina and a building to lease to the National Park Service. I agreed to visit, looking forward to seeing that part of the world for the first time. I was worried about the cold but, after looking at my bare arms and legs, realized it was April. I was on my way to an outdoor tennis court.

Having never visited America during winter months the entire time I lived in the Caribbean, I bought boots and a coat and headed to Minneapolis, where I was picked up at the heated airport in a heated car. Thirty minutes later we parked in a heated garage and walked into a heated house. That was easy. The next day we drove north from Minneapolis, through northern Minnesota, turned right at Lake Superior and continued toward Bayfield. I grew up in southern Illinois and remembered that April was a relatively warm month. Not here. Just outside of Duluth we stopped at an outfitter’s store where I replaced my new boots and winter coat with warmer versions.

Comfortably back in Bob’s heated SUV I got my first view of the largest lake in the world. There was ice in it–lots of it. I shivered. Before reaching Bayfield we traveled through a few small villages that seemed ready to be swallowed by either Lake Superior on one side or the North woods on the other. The trip left me a little puzzled. Some things were missing from my long held vision of the Northwoods. I turned to Bob and asked where all of the bear were.

He laughed and said, “They are still sleeping.”

“Where are the wild flowers?”

“It’s too early in the year,” he said.

“Where is Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother’s cottage?”

Bob winced and said, “I don’t know.

After a brief tour of Madeline Island and the Bayfield area, I started the first of a hundred walks through the Brickyard Creek forest. I was glad I bought the new boots. Many trips to the tundra later, Spring turned to summer and the mosquitoes came out in droves. I was finally in my comfort zone and had a great time exploring the forest alone. I was only chased out twice, once by a mother bear, and the other time by a mother partridge. I had stepped too close to a bush she and her chicks hid under and had no idea what the animal was that flapped and gyrated toward me. I ran back a few steps and saw that the rumbling ball of feathers relaxed to a much sleeker and smaller animal than the one that attacked me. It was a bird. “What the f… No bird is going to chase me from the forest,” I said out loud, and skirted that part of the forest the rest of the day.

Bob had just finished a marina—almost. He’d also built a new industrial looking building from which employees of the National Park Service happily went about their business of maintaining the nearby islands—almost. They didn’t seem happy.

The land around the marina was at issue—the land I’d been exploring for a couple of months. What could be done with it? Should anything be done with it? The land was unique—lots of wild flowers, lots of bear and a great tree canopy—except for the meadow. A past associate of Bob’s had prematurely cut two large swaths through the forest south of the creek. That’s what a typical developer does a unique environment—clear ninety percent of it to make way for a passel of large homes that could then enjoy the remaining ten percent.  I had a totally opposite plan—clear ten percent to make way for small cottages that could enjoy the remaining ninety percent of the forest. It would take a lot of arm-twisting to prove its economic worth.

The easiest thing to do with the Brickyard property would have been to subdivide the whole thing. The lakeshore lots would sell, but what about second and third tier lots. And what would happen to the trees and the wildlife in a conventional subdivision? As I spent more and more time walking the land, I kept coming back to the vision I had had when first hearing about this property. Though the cottage idea had not hit home yet, I did see several areas where, if properly sited, a cottage could be built to look as though it was born there.

Unsure how to present this plan, I decided to travel around the region to see what other developments in the North Woods looked like. Throughout Northern Wisconsin and the North Shore of Minnesota I saw the standard fare of townhomes, strip centers, and the ubiquitous plastic sided suburban homes sitting proudly just feet from the closest roadway. I was worried that my vision of the quintessential Cottage in the North Woods was busted.

Back in Bayfield, I suggested to Bob that we might have an opportunity to develop a world class “Cottage” resort on the land behind the marina. He sighed. After a lot of explanation, he reluctantly agreed. The planning of Brickyard Creek had officially started. We eventually cleaned up the felled trees and decided to call our new open space, The Meadow and, after a lot of tweaking, the Cottage Resort idea evolved into a low-impact cottage neighborhood to be marketed as second homes. We were excited about this project. We imported some of the concepts from our Caribbean eco resort project, invented a few more, hired an architect who was well versed in vernacular design, printed up some nice brochures, and waited for the buyers.

They didn’t show up.

Locals and the people who hung around the new marina thought we were crazy. I remember a conversation I had with a man from the reservation. It went something like this:

“We are going to build “turn of the century” style cottages in the forest behind the marina,” I said.

“What about the mosquitoes?” he asked.

“We’ll clear an area just large enough for the footprint of the cottage and chip up the felled trees to create nature trails to the beach.”

“What about the mosquitoes?”

“We will create a set of legal documents that will allow for the forest surrounding each cottage to be preserved an even enhanced. We won’t allow lawns, clear cutting, traditionally designed foundations, or any other environmentally destructive convention.”

“What about the mosquitoes?”

“Mosquitoes? We will use bacillus thuringiensis.”

What’s that?

“It is a soil bacterium that kills mosquito larvae naturally.”

A long pause.

“What will the bats eat?”

We had no buyers but we attracted a lot of head-scratching tire-kickers who, once they learned about this crazy scheme, returned home to pack up their family and friends and return just to see it and laugh. Encouraged, I told Bob we should build a model. He pushed back. I pestered him until he gave in and we built a model Creekside Cottage across the creek from the marina. We used a back entrance of the property to build the cottage and had no easy access from our office at the marina. I placed a couple of logs over the creek with the contention was that anybody who couldn’t cross the logs without falling in the creek shouldn’t own a cottage in the North Woods. Bob didn’t agree. I think he was the first to fall. A few months later, armed with a brand new vehicular bridge to our Creekside Cottage and a new pedestrian bridge over the creek near the marina, we prepared for the onslaught of eager buyers.

They didn’t show up.

At the time I thought it was our location. We were way on the fringe, compared to conventional projects. As I look back I realize that not only were we nowhere near the fringe, we weren’t even on the same planet. We had no cleared lots. We only cut roads that were needed to access the few cottage sites we were offering for sale at the time, which were very few. We planted native prairie grass in the meadow. We created several hundred feet of wood-chipped nature trails and hoped that our prospective buyers would get to see a bear while looking at cottage sites. We actually condominiumized the cottages so that the land around them would remain in natural habitat. We designed a pier foundation system that kept the cottages above the land so they would not alter existing drainage patterns. We voluntarily reduced our allowed zoning densities. We refused to turn the forest into a park-like setting. Trees that fell in the forest stay to add nutrients for the next generation. We didn’t even have an entrance sign.

Nobody came.

Bob once commented, “We must be the best kept secret project in the state”.

We scratched our heads and wondered what further steps we could take to expose our project to the public—short of clearing land and putting up for sale signs. It’s always difficult to walk a prospective buyer onto a heavily wooded cottage site and show them the exact spot where their kitchen sink will be located. Not that we didn’t know where it was to be located, we did; well, I did. Bob was always confused. Most people can’t see a third dimension from a two-dimensional drawing and have no chance to be able to envision a cottage in the thick forest when a cottage isn’t there.

Bob asked what we should do. After considerable thought, I concluded that I didn’t know. While still scratching, and to our surprise, a few very brave prospective buyers showed up and a couple of them signed contracts for cottages. A couple more sales later, we were able to build a microcosm of the proposed project, which made envisioning cottages a lot easier.

Brickyard Creek had begun.

Specific to the Brickyard Creek owners, a few of you bought into this concept early. Some have just recently come aboard. But you were all attracted to something that Brickyard Creek possesses, and it wasn’t just our good looks. After all, even though we are developers, we refused to be looked upon as sex symbols. Whatever the attraction— the Lake, the meadow, the wildlife, the creek, the trails, the speed bump— let’s hope that we can preserve it far into the future so that our children and their children will be able to spend time at Brickyard Creek and enjoy the same things we have had the great opportunity to experience.


–David Culberson