Your View: Offcials erred in Old Colony Inn approval

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Your View: Offcials erred in Old Colony Inn approval
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By Elizabeth Chimento, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
As residents of Canal Way and Pitt Street Station followed, in good faith, the city process for participating in the Old Colony Inn renovation decision, a series of irregularities occurred.

The developer did not notify Pitt Street Station residents — a requirement — that the Old Colony Inn owners were seeking to renovate the property. The developer’s attorney, through three community meetings, was condescending and impolite, attempting to confuse rather than enlighten.

According to city procedure, the nearby homeowners visited individually with each planning commissioner and city councilor. However, two commissioners already had made their decisions before meeting with us. Commissioners are expected to come to us with open minds.

Such bias tilted the playing field, denying us the opportunity to discuss our issues with neutral listeners.

At the May 3 planning commission meeting, a resident with whom we have no affiliation made inappropriate remarks to the commissioners. He was, as should have been the case, rebuked by the chair and told to sit down.

We, however, were courteous as we spoke to the commissioners, stating our points against the developer’s renovation plan. The commissioners voted 7 to 0 against us. One commissioner stated that the impolite speaker “didn’t help our case,” which in essence, painted us all with the same brush stroke.

The commissioner’s comment clearly stated that the body’s vote was informed, in part, by the impolite speaker’s behavior, in which he linked us all together. So, the question becomes: How much of the vote was based on the inappropriate speaker’s comments and how much was based on the merits of the case? That we cannot know, but the question remains.

Further, during the planning commission meeting, a city staff member misinformed the commission, stating that the National Park Service said the proposed hotel architecture was “OK.” In fact, the NPS “did not state it was in support of the project.”

At the May 14 city council meeting, we emphasized that the proposed building’s incursion into the zone transition set back line did not comply with the city’s zoning ordinance. Although council discussed the architectural embellishments that encroached on the zone transition line, a small part of the total incursion, it still allowed a serious infraction of the law to stand.

These process irregularities break the trust of the citizens who diligently and conscientiously followed the city policy for participating in the Old Colony Inn decision.

When a city is not self-reflective of its own errors and chooses in- stead to become a closed entity, it loses the trust of its citizens. And the citizens, stripped of expectations of fair play and law adherence, return to their interior spaces, sadder but wiser.

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