Thursday, November 29, 2007


The Greensboro Board of Adjustment yesterday upheld a ruling of the Greensboro Historic Preservation Commission about the cutting of a tree in Fisher Park. I wrote about the HPC's vote here, and I should note that I made the motion on the HPC to deny the request to cut the tree. The N&R's Jim Schlosser writes,

The Greensboro Board of Adjustment sided with the Fisher Park Neighborhood Association on Monday by ruling the church must keep a willow oak in a new church parking lot planned along North Elm Street.
I wasn't at the BOA meeting (I was teaching my historical linguistics class), and I believe they made the correct ruling, but I'm going to pick a bone with Jim Schlosser.

The job of the BOA is not to re-hear cases de novo, and the Board does not have to agree with the original ruling in order to uphold it. The Board's job is to determine whether the original ruling of the HPC was made fairly and reasonably.

When the HPC ruled that the tree in question should be preserved, it was not siding with the Fisher Park neighborhood; it was applying what's written in the Historic Preservation Design Guidelines to a specific case. Nor was the BOA siding with anyone in this appeal -- it would be a gross dereliction of their duty for them to do so. The BOA simply found that the HPC had ruled within its authority in a fair hearing.

Portraying a case like this as an amusing feud between a neighborhood and a church, with various boards and commissions taking sides, makes for a lively story.

But it demeans the work of the board and commission volunteers, who take their duties seriously, and it deprives the public of accurate knowledge of how their city government works.


Anonymous said...

What galls me is that the City Staff never read the guidelines.

How can the City Arboris recommmend cutting down a significant and healthy border tree between two incompatible uses, parking lot and homes. He also said "Allee Elms" were suitable replacements. Take a look a these dainty little Elms. Junk, like Bradford Pears!

How can City Staff recommend approval of a "parking lot" on a signature street like Elm?

Did they read the guidelines??

hedwood1 said...

David, do you think Jim Schlosser was intentionally playing that angle? It does make for a good story, but I think of Mr. Schlosser as a highly honorable, objective reporter.

David Wharton said...

Craftyboro, the city arborist's conclusions about the trees in question were not intended to be recommendations about the historical appropriateness of leaving/removing them -- that's the HPC's job. His input was strictly "arborial," that is, which trees were healthy, which were not, etc. The commission needs and values his expertise in this area, and I found nothing to fault in his recommendations.

Hedwood1, I think the N&R generally reports on the HPC only when we're involved in controversy (which is understandable), and rarely explains very clearly to the public how the HPC or the historic district ordinance works.

I think Jim Schlosser is a good and honest reporter who focuses on the element of his story that will appeal to his readers.

Obviously a feud between Fisher Park and First Presbyterian Church makes a livelier story than one about the limited review function of the Board of Adjustment over another quasi-judicial body.

But I think it's misleading (intentionally or otherwise) to say that the BOA "sided" with someone when in fact it simply did a procedural review of the HPC's decision. It did NOT re-hear the church's request to cut the tree.