Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Silence of the Lambs

One of the most striking features of the ongoing debate over Parker-Gray's nomination to the National Register of Historic Places is the absolute silence being maintained by the Inner City Civic Association.

The first story about the City's failure to push for Parker-Gray's nomination to the national registry appeared in early February. Since then it's been the subject of letters, editorials and articles in the Alexandria Gazette and the Examiner and has been discussed in at least three City Council meetings.

Since the story first broke, the ICCA has held four monthly meetings in which not a word was breathed about the nomination or the possibility of tax credits for residents who want to undertake a restoration of their homes.

Why not address an issue that could benefit residents on ICCA's turf? Why the silence?

ICCA Treasurer Charlotte Landis did speak out at two City Council public hearings. But the Growler watched both hearings and not once did Mrs. Landis identify herself to Council as an ICCA officer or spokesman, just a concerned resident. The Mayor and Council didn't seem to recognize her or seem to know her until she spoke, so one can't assume they immediately knew she was there for ICCA.

Even more interesting, where has ICCA Vice President and developer William Cromley been on this issue? He bills himself as a preservation and restoration expert and served as a Parker-Gray BAR member and ultimately chairman for 11 years. Did he know or didn't he know about the district's eligibility for listing?

The City's Design Guidelines, which are the bible for the two BARs, state on page 4 of the guidelines section, "History of the Physical Development of the Districts," (dated May 25, 1993): "Most of the [Parker-Gray] district has been determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places."

If Mr. Cromley didn't know about Parker-Gray's eligibility, it would indicate a lack of familiarity with the Design Guidelines. Which would be more than a little telling for someone who served more than a decade on the BAR. If he did know, why has he apparently never raised the issue through the bully pulpit of the Parker-Gray BAR or now through the ICCA?

Then there is ICCA Secretary Philip Moffat. Where has he been on this issue? He was recently appointed to the Parker-Gray BAR but hasn't testified to Council or informed members of the community on the nomination and the possibility of tax credits.

Mr. Moffat is an associate at Beveridge & Diamond and touts "Historical and Archeological Practice" as one of his specialities in his bio on the firm's Web site. Beveridge & Diamond has this to say about the Historical practice area:

Local, state and federal preservation laws aim to protect historic, cultural and archeological resources and seek to engage community groups and tribal governments in that effort. The National Historic Preservation Act (“NHPA”) and related statutes can impact development proposals in urban areas as well as on more remote federal lands. Beveridge & Diamond regularly counsels clients on the intricacies of these programs and how to best work with governmental agencies from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to local preservation boards and commissions.

So with all this expertise among ICCA officers, why the silence? Is the nomination something that ICCA leadership doesn't want to promote, and if so why not?