Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Harding Appeal OK'd 4-3

After a long evening of debate and public comments, the Woodstock City Council approved the appeal by Harding Real Estate to keep the double-hung window on the west side of its property at 223 South Tryon St.

If you'd like to read all the back and forth on it, wait a week or so for the Minutes of tonight's meeting and then wade through them.

Councilman Ahrens explained his reason for requesting a new vote. Basically, the Council was concerned about causing the Hardings to incur more expense, on top of the "six-figures" they had already spent on the project.

Councilman Webster started down the throat of a member of the Historic Preservation Commission who was required to speak as an individual, even though he was really there as a Commission member. And then Councilman Turner piled on, for which he later apologized. Mayor Sager also required Erika Wilson to speak as an individual, too. Allen Stebbins had spoken to the Council as Chair of the Commission, and the mayor didn't want to hear from others in their official, appointed capacity.

RB Thompson tried to get an answer from the representative of the City Attorney's office who was filling in for Rich Flood. When he asked the attorney whether the Council could properly consider the motion, since the Harding's appeal was filed beyond the 10-day period after the HPC's decision, the mayor cut in and answered the question.

When RB persisted, the attorney knew what answer the mayor wanted and hedged, finally saying that she could probably find some case law to, as I understood her, say that the appeal could not be heard. The mayor's position was that, since the Council had decided to hear the Harding's matter, then it could do so.

"The City Code be damned," was how it came across to me.

Councilman Turner asked how the window came to be removed. Andy Harding said the window had been broken and was measured for replacement. This was not the same story as told by Mr. Harding, Sr., on February 16. He said the window had been removed and went into the dumpster. Mr. Harding, Sr., did not say that the "broken" window had gone into the dumpster, as I recall his wording. So, where was the "honest mistake"?

My opinion is that the window was removed so that it could be replaced with the double-hung windows and that the HPC decision was ignored. That's how I see it.

The Council voted on the Motion to allow the Harding's appeal, if that is actually what the wording of the Motion was. When the mayor read the Motion that was to be voted on, he sounded to me like it was to deny the Harding's appeal. Councilwoman Larsen asked if a Yes vote meant in the Harding's favor, and the mayor agreed. But that isn't what the verbal motion sounded like to me and at least one other person? I suspect that will get cleaned up in the Minutes and, without listening to the tape-recording of the meeting, I'll never know.

What was the final vote?
Dillon - Yes
Ahrens - Yes
Webster - Yes
Turner - No
Thompson - No
Larson - No
Sager - Yes

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