Thursday, October 02, 2008

Response to this Morning's Standard-Examiner Op-ed Piece

Lame Tami Crowley Guest Commentary, thoroughly sliced and diced

By Curmudgeon

In this morning's Standard-Examiner, there is a long op ed piece by Ms. Tami Crowley, owner of Artists & Heirlooms on Historic 25th Street. She is displeased by the Council's vote last Tuesday night not to change the height limits for renovation projects on the street to accommodate the Windsor Hotel renovation. Ms. Crowley notes that many business owners supported the change the Council rejected, and believes that the wishes of those who own businesses on 25th Street were not taken seriously by the Council as a whole, and charges that the Council instead listened to "outsiders" and indulged the members own personal agendas instead.

Ms. Crowley's piece is interesting in a number of respects. She sadly descends into the same rhetorical overkill and partisanship she accuses those on the Council she disagrees with of employing. [Ms. Crowley, there were certainly those at the meeting supporting your point of view, but there were not "countless" numbers of them, as you claim.] But that kind of exaggeration often creeps into pieces written by the angry. There are more substantive problems with Ms. Crowley's missive.

She repeated the usual Godfrey Gaggle charge that the Council bowed to the wishes of those who live in "neighborhoods east of the area," and complains that the Windsor renovation plan had already been approved by "the appropriate officials" and would "never have gone to the council if it weren't for the height ordinance." Let me see if I can rephrase that point for her a little more clearly: "If the ordinances didn't require the Council to approve this, the council wouldn't have had to approve it." We can only wonder if Ms. Crowley had her op ed piece proofread by Sarah Palin before she submitted it, with such a trenchant observation as that at the heart of it.

Ms. Crowley says she was "appalled as one of the councilwomen read a pre-written speech, obviously authored by someone opposed to the project." It's a little hard to know exactly what Ms. Crowley was upset about. That a council member read prepared remarks into the record? Surely not that. That the remarks were "written by someone opposed to the project?" Does Ms. Crowley think only remarks by those in favor of projects she likes should be read into the record? I suspect that's it, but her point is so vaguely made, it's hard to be sure.

"In that speech," she goes on, the councilwoman "degraded landmarks and the planning commission and provided no documentation, only worry."

I agree with Ms. Crowley that some of the discussion by the council descended, by all accounts, into inappropriate... well, mudslinging. I agree with her that such has no proper place in public discourse, particularly in the Council chambers during public sessions. However, about this "no documentation" matter.... I note that Ms. Crowley never mentions the article by the Utah Heritage Foundation cautioning that changing the height ordinance to accommodate the Windsor developers might put the street's Historic District designation at risk. And, despite her expressed concern for the importance of documentation in public debate [which I share], she never in her op ed piece so much as mentions the letter from the State Historic Preservation Office spokesperson raising the same concerns.

What she does include in her essay is this: "I listened to presentations by City Planning Manager Greg Montgomery... [which] provided information showing this change would not jeopardize historical guidelines with federal or state regulations with for future funding." That's it. Just a bald assertion, with no documentation or evidence provided by Ms. Crowley, that changing the height limits would not affect the street's federal designation as a Historic District.

Sorry, Ms. Crowley, but [rhetorically] stamping your foot and shouting over and over "It won't! It won't! It won't!" isn't likely to convince anyone not already committed to your side of the argument.

Let me put it in a nutshell for you, Ms. Crowley: I had no opinion on this Windsor business until I read the Utah Heritage Foundation article, and then saw the SHPO letter. Those moved me off the fence and into the group supporting the Council on this. Those two communications, from groups with a great deal of credibility on matters involving historic preservation, stating that changing the height limits would endanger the streets historic designation, I found convincing.

I don't have a problem with the proposed Windsor re-design. I think it would be good for Ogden in general, and 25th Street in particular to have a deteriorating history property rehabbed in a way to preserve the historic character of the building and bring several upscale condo units to the street. But not at the cost of endangering the street's Historic District designation.

So, if you want to convince me... and Council members too I suspect --- otherwise, what you need to do is present an argument, and evidence, that the SHPO and Heritage Foundation are wrong about this, and that changing the height limits would definitely not endanger the streets Historic District designation. That is, seems to me, what you and those who share your views need to do. Your op ed piece does not even begin to do it.

23 comments:

Jason W. said...

And, Good Old (?) Curmudgeon, while she lives in North Ogden, she employs the latest rallying cry issued by THE SKI IS BEAUTIFUL BLUE, Obersturmbannfuehrer in Wayne Peterson's famed Squirrel Patrol:

"This comes from the East Bench."

THE SKI IS BEAUTIFUL BLUE

Curmudgeon said...

Jason:

As I said above: She repeated the usual Godfrey Gaggle charge that the Council bowed to the wishes of those who live in "neighborhoods east of the area."

Bill C. said...

Well, I guess she didn't pay much attention or come into town last Saturday, she complains of whores and boozers, wasn't that what they were celebrating ? If it wasn't exactly what they were celebrating, it sure was an integral part.

big betty said...

Bill

Whores and boozers? Oh no, not in Ogden, not in my home town! (except of course hangin around the ninth floor)

eric said...

This is their typical response to pretty much everything. Do they ever have any legit arguments? No, they don't. That is why they have to be so nasty. If you can't win with the facts, then what else can you do?

Moroni McConkie said...

Sad to see Tami Crowley's piece. I disagree that opposition was predominantly from "East of Harrison." My apartment is right across from the Windsor, and I so stated in sending my opposing views to the entire council.

Tami has worked very hard to promote 25th Street. I think her gallery is the best in Ogden. But her op-ed reveals that she has never gotten over her Farr West roots. She has what is arguably the best original building on Historic 25th. It is conceivable that someday she might need the benefits that historic districts convey. In supporting a move that risks that prized designation, she shows her cluelessness.

ozboy said...

Tami certainly has a right to her opinion however biased it may be. She apparently has a lot of skin in the 25th street game and my hat is off to her for that.

Does any one know just how wide spread support for this shot down proposal was with all of the 25th Street property owners? One would think from her op-ed piece that it was all but unanimous in favor. I have heard from one property owner there that this is far from the truth.

Curmudgeon said...

Oz:

She certainly has a right to her opinion, and to express it, and as you say she has a lot of skin in the game. I just wish instead of lashing out in anger as she did, mostly, in her op ed piece, she'd directly attacked the heart of the objection to what the Windsor developers wanted: that it would put at risk the street's Historic District designation. If that's not so, and if she [and those who think like her on this] can demonstrate that that is not so, seems to me there would not be a Council majority against them on this. They've got a really hard sell to make the Council into some kind of anti-business cabal. It was after all the Council that approved the sale of the Windsor to the developers with a subsidy to make it happen. It was the Council that did all that knowing the developers were going to add a 4th floor to the rear of the building [though apparently not knowing at that point that the design they'd submit would require changing the height limits on the street]. In fact, the Council approved all that the developers wanted except a late-in-the-day request for permission to exceed the zoning height limits on the street when groups with a lot of credibility in re: historic preservation warned that doing so would endanger the street's Historic District designation.

Have to admit, I'm really surprised that, so far, no spokesperson that I know of on Ms. Crowley's side of the argument, has challenged head-on the accuracy of the claim that granting the variance would jeopardize the street's Historic District status, or even attempted it. That's the nub of the dispute, and I'm puzzled why none of them have tackled it yet.

dan s. said...

ozboy,

We'll never know the answer to your question, because business owners who disagree with the administration aren't exactly free to say so.

big bird said...

My question is why people like Bernie Allen, Sue Wilkerson, Tom Moore and others who have claimed to be preservationists are pushing an ordinance that weakens preservation in the City? What is their motive, it definitely is not historic preservation. The fact is the ordinance that is in place is a good ordinance. It has served Ogden well for 20 years. Even though it is 20 years old, it is not outdated. It is an ordinance that was written for a sound reason - to preserve 25th Street while at the same time balancing economic development needs (the current ordinance is a balanced one that does indeed allow changes and additions in the district) and has been successful. Why preservationists would push something that is not preservation-friendly is beyond me. It is equal to Dan S. promoting development up Malan's Basin or Taylor or Strong's or any other canyon. Doesn't make much sense. You are right Curm, the facts have not been disputed. It appears they can't be, and I'm sure the Mayor's buddies realize that. That is why they have taken other tracks. Also, I don't think the business owners realize how preservation has actually been a benefit to them over the years and will continue to be a benefit to them well into the future. It has been claimed they were pushed pretty hard by those who wanted to revise the ordinance, if that is the case I don't think they've been provided the most honest or complete picture. Just my take.

Little Bird said...

Big Bird:

"Why preservationists would push something that is not preservation-friendly is beyond me"

Perhaps they're not really presevationists but like the sound on the label.

I've often wondered the same thing about Republicans being labeled conservatives. I have never known a Republican to conserve on anything.

They too must like the ring of the label.

Ed J said...

ms crowley should thank god the city council is there to protect her against her own ignorance and stupidity.

Curmudgeon said...

Big B:

"Why preservationists would push something that is not preservation-friendly is beyond me"

Well, BB, it's a little more complex than that. Historic preservation does not mean... can not mean... simply preserving things as they are, or even once were. Sometimes that puritan approach results in important buildings deteriorating to the point that they must be torn down for safety reasons. [Happened to a building a few to the west of the Windsor just recently.]

Effective historic preservation in an urban setting often involves finding ways to make historic buildings profitable urban buildings in modern America, while retaining as much as possible of their historic streetside "look and feel." This inevitably involves compromise, finding some middle ground between preserving the historic character of a building, and preserving its street "look and feel" while permitting retrofitting to make it a viable investment today. And just as inevitably, there is often disagreement about exactly where the line between "preservation" on the one hand and modernization on the other should be drawn. That's what happened, and is happening, in this instance.

The Landmarks commission... which is not entirely populated by drooling Godfrey sycophants --- judged that the Windsor plans were the best that could be done under current circumstances --- an empty and deteriorating historic building --- for the building, for preserving the turn of the century look-and-feel of 25th Street, and for the neighborhood in general [creating several high-end condo units on lower 25th Street]. Disagree with that conclusion if you will... many do... but it is not on its face an unreasonable conclusion for the Commission to have reached.

Unless accommodating the Windsor developers request for changing the existing height restrictions on the street will endanger its designation as a National Historic District, which the WCHS and UHS spokesperson's suggested it will do. If those organizations are wrong about that, then I see nothing crucial to complain about in the Windsor developer's plans. If those organizations are wrong. That's the key question here, and proponents of the Windsor development have not yet even begun to deal with that question head on.

Bill C. said...

Fine comentary Curm, but you've forgotten that this wasn't about the Windsor, the Windsor folks could have made a specific appeal to the Council, but did not.
Instead lying little matty and uncle gregory peccary montgomery went for the broader, much more devious plan of removing or changing the hight limit for the entire district. The Windsor was their decoy. I assume that after the Council gifted the owners $288,000 to aid in the refurbishment, under the guise of historical renovation guideline expense, they didn't seak a specific waiver because they all knew they were not conforming.
I believe the no money angle talked about here is really the true reason they bailed because they could have tried to go in front of the Council with a specific appeal but didn't.
Translation: The ordinance change was the whole district. Why do the Windsor folks bail without seeking a personal waiver if their case could be made? They always have that option.
Did I mention that a peccary is a small pig, with a white collar?

Curmudgeon said...

Bill:

The developers could have asked for spot zoning... a change applicable only to their property, I suppose. Might have been wiser to do that, given how things turned out. But might have made it more difficult.

Planning commissions and city councils often prefer to avoid spot zoning since it can get them into all kinds of trouble down the road, and often ends up defeating the purpose of zoning in the first place. For example, if you grant applicant X a one-time variance for his property in a historic district, and next month, applicants Y and Z ask for the same, on what grounds could you deny them? Such things often wind up, expensively, in court. So it was not unreasonable for the Administration, planning commission and land marks commission to consider instead whether changing the zoned height ordinance for the whole street would be a good idea. In fact, in some cities, local ordinances make spot zoning flatly illegal.

The original '45 foot limit was not mandated by the feds or a requirement for 25th Street having gotten its Historic District designation in the first place. The PC and HLC selected that limit as the one they thought made sense at the time... about 20 years ago now I think. Looking at it again, now, in light of accommodating the Windsor developers, they concluded that a 55' foot limit made more sense now.

Not necessarily an unreasonable position to take, provided --- here we go again --- taking it does not put in jeopardy the street's designation as a national Historic District. So, again, that's what the proponents of the change have got to establish if they want to prevail, seems to me. That the UHS and WCHS were wrong in saying the changed height limits would put at risk the street's historic district designation. They certainly haven't done that yet. Whether they can remains to be seen.

curious 1 said...

Again the second part of the ordinance taking the future approval for other projects away from the city council and giving it to the planning and landmarks commission was the deal breaker.
Please keep in mind that the current administaration keeps trying to neuter the city council and make any and all decisions concerning the city.

It will be interesting if Tom Owens can buy the Windsor now that Ogden Properties LLC have cancelled their plans for the Windsor. Since he in in the past has offered more money for other city property and was turned down by Godfrey so he could sell the property to Chris Peterson as stated in todays paper. When will deals be made in the interest of the city and not just for FOM.

Could it be that threatening to bail is just a ploy so the city council under pressure will relent and approve their request for the Windsor. Now that the mayor has total control of the RDA I don't see much hope for the next 3 years.

When the mayor says we have to sell the golf course to bail out the city then maybe the citizens will wake up and really pressure the admistration to be open and honest.

Curmudgeon said...

curious:

You wrote: Now that the mayor has total control of the RDA I don't see much hope for the next 3 years.

The mayor does not have "total control" over the RDA. Sales, etc. must still be approved by the City Council sitting as the RDA board. True, the Council cannot remove him as RDA director, thanks to a law passed this last session by his Republican buddies in the legislature [Curtis, Bramble, Valentine, Buttars]. But the RDA board, which means the Council, must still approve transactions. And it has become very clear of late that Hizzonah does not command on all matters a Council majority.

Jonathan R said...

Sorry, Curmudgeon, but I disagree with you on several points in your lead post. When you said, “I agree with Ms. Crowley that some of the discussion by the council descended, by all accounts, into inappropriate... well, mudslinging. I agree with her that such has no proper place in public discourse, particularly in the Council chambers during public sessions” I have to take exception. If you are referring to the statement that was made about the independence of the Landmarks Commission, most of us know that the reason Godfrey removed two of its trained and experienced members who were not in his pocket and replaced them with na├»ve, untrained, and inexperienced women who had been told that he would put them on the prestigious Landmarks Commission was so he could get the rulings he wanted. The reason that Sue Wilkerson is kicking up such a stink is that the truth hurts when foul deeds are brought out into the light.

I believe the Councilwoman pointed out that three unbiased historic preservation organizations had spoken against increasing the height limit of buildings in the historic district, but the Ogden Landmarks Commission’s decision had been contrary to the other three, and it caused one to wonder if the Commission was susceptible to political pressure. Is that “mudslinging,” Curmudgeon? I was at the Council meeting, were you or are you depending on second-hand information to base your comments? And to set the record straight, the Planning Commission was never mentioned by any of the Council members. But her argument where she “complains that the Windsor renovation plan had already been approved by ‘the appropriate officials’ and would ‘never have gone to the council if it weren't for the height ordinance,’” makes the argument for the Council’s vote more imperative than ever. They are the elected body and represent ALL residents of Ogden, and therefore must vote as they feel is in the best interest of the City in the long term after they study all aspects of the issue, and not let emotions rule. No one can deny that Ms. Crowley’s tirade in the SE is not emotional. Thank goodness saner heads prevailed on this issue.

ozboy said...

Mr. Curmudgeon

Are you sure about the Lil Lord not having total control over sales of RDA and/or city owned property?

Seems to me that the old - old council, you remember the notoriously famous rubber stamp gang, gave him, through city ordinance, their legislative given powers over city property, or was it RDA property, or was it both? As far as I know that has never been revoked.

Now granted this may not be the same as RDA property being that the city and RDA are technically two different entities. In reality the Lil Lord has steadily through the last few years consolidated his complete strangle hold over both organizations. There is so much intermingling gone on between the two it is difficult to tell just who owns what.

Tired of Being Sold Down the River said...

I'd also like to point out that Ms. Crowley is accusing the Council of what she is guilty of -- pushing her own agenda. After listening again to the CD of the meeting, I have come to the conclusion that the Council in no way was thinking of their own agenda. They ALL were sincerely concerned about keeping the historic integrity of the Historic 25th Street Historic District which brings many benefits to the city and to the district among which one is federal dollars.

I understand a number a number of 25th Street owners were eagerly awaiting for the increase in height ordinance to be passed so they could increase the height of their buildings. THE COUNCIL WAS SO RIGHT -- THE HISTORIC DISTRICT WOULD HAVE BEEN JEOPARDIZED!!

I am totally disappointed in Ms. Crowley and those business owners for being so selfish and short-sighted!! And then accusing the Council of what they are doing! What total hyprocrites!

Curmudgeon said...

Oz:

RDA sales have to go through the Council sitting as the RDA Board. Recall, that was the hang up on the Bootjack sale to Peterson. The Council had the temerity to ask the Mayor who he wanted to sell that RDA property to, and the Administration at first refused to say. But the Council had to approve the sale of the RDA property.

I'm disgusted said...

Curmudgeon,

Your answer applied BEFORE Mark Brown and the city's lobbyist added a couple of sentences to SB 294 that gave Godfrey total control of all land transactions, just like he has with city property.

I'm disgusted said...

I meant Mark Johnson above. Just rolled two snakes into one.

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