Historic preservation as tactical bludgeon

by Walter Olson on May 25, 2012

It’s not just New York:

In Georgetown, for instance, Eastbanc has proposed to replace the Canal Rd. Exxon with a five story condo building. From a true historic preservation perspective, there’s not much of a case against the project. It wouldn’t break up the rhythm of the block and the proposed style, while not particularly elegant, was at least not discordant.

But neighbors along Prospect Street would lose a part of their fabulous view across the Potomac. So they argued vociferously during the design review process that the project should be reduced to preserve their views. This had little to nothing to do with genuine historic preservation. … This pattern is repeated frequently in Georgetown and in other historic districts.

The local opponents have thus far blocked the project, which means the historic district is still adorned with the Key Bridge Exxon. One might ask the neighbors whether they feel a gas station enhances the neighborhood’s quaint Nineteenth Century ambiance, except that, taking a leaf from lower Manhattanites, they might say it does.

More: David Schleicher, Prawfs, on the municipal political economy of zoning.

{ 1 comment }

1 coregis 05.26.12 at 10:04 pm

Take a look at the issues of Camp Security in York, PA. It was a NIMBY issue, never a historical preservation issue…

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