Jim Schlosser reported in this morning's paper that the Greensboro Historic Preservation Commission denied First Presbyterian Church's request to cut down a tree in order to increase the number of spaces in a parking lot.
[C]ommission member David Wharton said, the panel "simply cannot buy the destruction of that tree."Jim's story will likely provoke outrage in some quarters about regulatory overreach in the historic districts, but he left out one thing that I think is crucial to understanding why the Commission made its decision: the Historic District Guidelines. According to state law and city ordinance, it's the Commission's job to enforce them, whether we agree with them or not.
Here's the relevant guideline from the section about new parking areas (p. 30):
9. Incorporate existing large trees and shrubs into the landscaping for new parking areas when possible.My judgement of First Presbyterian's parking plan was that incorporating the Willow Oak in question was certainly possible, even though it would reduce the amount of space for parking. Had the guidelines said "convenient" instead of "possible," I would probably have voted differently. But it would have been capricious and unfair for us to disregard our own guiding document in this or any other case.
First Presbyterian did a great job of working with the neighborhood and the Commission on the rest of the plan [link], which -- except for this one detail -- was outstanding. I hope they'll continue to do so on future projects.