Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Occasionally I am asked to review a planning application for this or that municipal client, typically when there is something non-standard about the proposal or they are not certain about how to react. Sometimes I think I just am being asked to play the heavy, to provide language that is more polite than “What the %*^%$ are they thinking?” and perhaps provide some re-direction. It is always an interesting experience.
I think that preservationists sometimes need to work a little harder to remember that no one sits down at the drawing board with the idea of “How do I really ruin this historic property” in the forefront of their mind. Those property owners that are reaching for their wallet are, no matter how misguided, still following a laudable impulse - to invest in their building with the intent of improving it, making it more attractive, secure, functional, or whatever. That’s a good thing and one that should be nurtured, not squashed.
Admittedly there are times when that impulse is so misdirected it is hard not to castigate anyone who proposes it. Those are often the applications sent my way. And often what the applicant is attempting (improved access, greater sense of entry) is a really good idea...it is just the proposed execution that fails. Turning that around, educating them without making them feel stupid, isn’t always easy, but I try hard to see these situations as opportunities. It isn’t really that difficult to do the right thing by a historic building, if you know what the right thing is and know that there are other sources of supply beside Home Depot and Lowes.