MY VIEW/Townsend Van Fleet – Preserving the city’s character


Jeni Upchurchs article in The Times July 16, Preserving citys historic character comes to a head, needs clarifying. 

Ms. Upchurch writes in the article that I was the one firing the salvos at the chairman of the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) when in actually the letter sent to the Mayor regarding the BAR was signed by the Board of Directors of the Old Town Civic Association, Townsend A. Van Fleet, President, not solely by Van Van Fleet. I wrote the first draft which was subsequently revised at least six or seven times by the other members of the OTCA Board. The end product sent by me to the Times hardly resembles the initial draft.  

In fact, when the Times printed most of our letter in their June 10 issue it did not accurately print who actually sent the letter to the Mayor and Council. Again, they have me as the author. 

The article identifyies me as a Washington lobbyist. Just what did my day time job have to do with my work as the immediate past President of the Old Town Civic Association? By the way, many residents over the years have been critical of Mr. Hulfish as having a major conflict of interest selling properties while sitting in judgement on property developments and redevelopments as chairman of the BAR.  

Hulfish or Upchurch even went so far as to pull out Mr. Hulfishs seventh generation Old Towner card. Well, my Old Town roots go back at least seven generations, as I am a direct descendent of George Mason IV, who not only gave us the Bill of Rights but was also a Trustee of the City of Alexandria for 25 years.   

I have always bent over backwards not to be contentious or angry, especially when dealing with what I believe to be the dysfunction of the BAR. Mr. Hulfish just doesnt like the fact that as the President of the Old Town Civic Association, we along with the Historic Alexandria Foundation (HAF) continuously challenge BAR decisions when it is necessary.  

I will admit that I have little patience for incompetence and that is exactly what the BAR displays every other week. I doubt seriously whether most of them have ever read the Guidelines for Historic Preservation, except for Peter Smeallie who wrote the guidelines with Peter Smith.  If they have, then why do so many wrong decisions come out of that body? This Board needs to be reconstituted.  

I am glad Mr. Hulfish agrees with the Old Town Civic Association in stating that whatever you did to the Holiday Inn would be an improvement.” My question then becomes why did the BAR approve what I believe to be such an atrocious color scheme in the first place? Maybe he would consider exerting some of his civic prowess and change it. Its never too late.  

Regarding the article’s assertion that Mr.  Hulfish and I were planning to meet at the Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC) and see if some consensus can be reached on a smoother public discourse over proposed alterations to the citys historic fabric is not an accurate reflection of the meeting’s planned agenda. Mr. Hulfish, Poul Hertel, the New Old Town Civic President, and I were scheduled to meet at the ODBC on June 30 to discuss the Van Alstine sculpture.  

Unfortunately I was taken ill and never made the appointment. Within that same context, Ms. Upchurch says that the two said they plan. But Ms. Upchurch never had the courtesy to contact me before writing her article.  

If the Times is going to do interviews wherein the interviewee takes shots at another citizen, then that citizen should be given the opportunity to respond. This entire article by Ms Upchurch was shoddy reporting at best. 

Townsend A. Van Van Fleet
Old Town