We know best, and the community be damned! This appears to be what the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS) are saying to the community (“Dwelling in the Past,” 11/1). Both organizations know that nobody is going to spend the exorbitant amount of money necessary to rehabilitate the shotgun house. The CHRS was offered the house for free, but it still refused to put its money into the project. But, by god, it can and will maintain the status quo. In other words: The derelict building must stay.
Clearly stung by the article, former CHRS President Brian Furness (The Mail, 11/8) and current CHRS President Robert L.M. Nevitt (The Mail, 11/15) have each published a defensive letter. Furness viciously attacked me personally and Nevitt defended the CHRS at length, but neither gentleman offered so much as a hint of a solution to the serious problem that confronts our community. In fact, the only problem that they seem to recognize is that they can’t force me to waste my money on the shotgun house the way they want it wasted.
The law says that the HPRB must give “great weight” to the local advisory neighborhood commission (ANC). The ANC legally represents the community, and its members voted unanimously for demolition of the shotgun house. The HPRB totally ignored the ANC’s recommendation. The law gives no special weight to the CHRS, but the HPRB has done exactly what it demanded. The preservation law allows demolition for a project of “special merit.” “Special merit” is defined, in part, as a project that serves the community. Such projects have been offered, but the HPRB and the CHRS have always said no.
The HPRB just says no and then, like Pontius Pilate, washes its hands of the problem. And the CHRS is obviously out of step with the very community it claims to represent.
Pragmatically, the solution lies in an honest interpretation and then administration of the law. A little good will and a little less rancor would also help.