Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Power corrupts

The last time I checked, city governments are supposed to be run by mature, level-headed adults. Then along comes the Roanoke City’s Architectural Review Board and the city council to prove me wrong. Thankfully, there are babysitters for this type of inane behavior, someone who can slap the wrists of immature minds and provide some decent decision making.

Last October, Aubrey Hicks needed to replace the roof on his house in the historic Old Southwest district. As if replacing a roof wasn’t costly enough, Hicks faced the prospect of having to shell out even more for a tin roof simply to satisfy the city’s desire to preserve the neighborhood’s “historical character.” (Now, how putting a shingle roof on a house destroys the historical character is beyond me. I drive through Old Southwest everyday and I haven’t once had to stop my truck in utter dismay as I glance at a shingled-roof house, thinking that the city is now going to pot. But I digress.) Not having the funds to put a tin roof up, Hicks decided to go ahead with a shingled roof. The City Board got wind of it and got the panties in a wad because *gasp* - Hicks didn’t get permission to fix (his own) roof! Oh the horror! So what does the city do? They order Hicks to stop work on his roof, preventing him from finishing the roof or even putting the old one back up, and even threaten him with jail time. All for not getting their approval.

“Ok, everyone out of the pool”

Hicks had requested permission to finish the roof, the board turned it down. Hick’s appealed and the city board rejected his appeal, “not because of the house’s needs but because Hicks didn’t follow proper procedures.” (Roanoke Times) So from October 2006 to August 2007, Hicks’ house has not had a finished roof simply because a power-hungry city council wanted to prove a point.

Thankfully, Judge William Broadhurst has stepped into the fray like a teacher reprimanding a schoolyard bully. He has ordered the city council to allow Hicks to finish his roof, saying the board’s and council’s refusal to grant authorization was “arbitrary and capricious.” Naturally, much whining ensued from both the board and the council saying that this would send the wrong message to other residents and encourage them to circumvent the review board’s authority. Honestly, I hope this is exactly what happens, subsequently making the Architectural Review Board (in this issue, at least) obsolete. Considering that the majority of the residents (NOT businesses) of the Old Southwest area are not exactly in the best place financially to put up a tin roof on a 100-year old building, this issue of needing permission for replacing a roof needs to go the way of the dodo. If the argument is made that, if gone through the right channels, a shingled-roof would be permitted, I would ask why in the world would someone need to go through the hassle of applying for permission in the first place?

Power and immaturity never go well together. For proof, just look at the Roanoke City Council.


Mason said...

Council's vote on the Hicks appeal was 4-3. Lea, Trinkle and Wishneff were the ones who voted in favor of Hicks over the ARB.

Stephen said...

That's good to hear. I'm glad that some semblance of common sense is on the council.

Charlie said...

During Hicks' appeal Wishneff actually compared Old Southwest under ARB control to Stalinist Russia. Unfortunately, he represented the minority opinion is this case. Thankfully Aubrey Hicks and his wife have persevered and are finally able to spend their own money to put a decent roof on their own home.

(also, congrats on the growing family steve)

Bill said...

I am with you on this my friend! Architectural review boards have too much power. They were acting silly and I hope they lose election to the board the next go around.