Following up on yesterday's post about the proposed interim height limit for Town Center that would retroactively apply to the Plaza Tower, there are a couple news items worth mentioning.
First, I'm glad to see that the Flier's editorial this week largely agrees with my take, saying such a measure is both "unfair and bad government." Which is true.
But of more concern to me from the news today are comments made by the Coalition for Columbia's Downtown's spokesman, Alan Klein, who fully supports the temporary height limit being proposed by council member Mary Kay Sigaty.
"It is a victory for all of the people in Columbia," said Alan Klein, a spokesman for the Coalition for Columbia's Downtown, a citizen's group that opposes the construction of Plaza-like high-rise buildings in Town Center. "It is certainly a first step, a way to put (the height limit) back where it belongs."I know this may seem like it's a bizarre fetish of mine -- pedantically questioning CCD's language choice -- but it's frustrating to see the continued use of phrases like "all of the people in Columbia" when the group clearly does not represent all of the people in Columbia. Indeed, another Tower roadblock is, for many, a defeat. There are actually Columbians who want to live in the Tower and many who would just like to see the future of Town Center become reality rather than just an abstract, incomplete plan.
Another reason I think such talk is damaging is that it continues to paint the picture as one of citizens versus... uh, others, be they developers, planners, politicians, whoever. There are not two sides fighting for only two different things in the debate over Town Center.
In a perfect world, there would be no sides, just individuals with different backgrounds and ideas working towards compromise. In the real world, there are many sides hoping for a plan that reflects some/most/all of their values and visions.
In the Examiner, meanwhile, Klein makes another point I disagree with:
“Our belief was from the beginning it was a mistake to exempt the tower plans from the charrette process,” said Alan Klein, spokesman for Coalition for Columbia’s Downtown, a resident’s activist group.Was it really the case that the Tower was exempt from the planning process, or was it simply not on enough people's radar screens prior to the charrette?
Very long-time readers of this blog will remember that I posted something about the Tower (which included a picture of the building) several weeks before the charrette. And the approval process for this project -- covered by most local papers -- was also underway many months before, as well (I believe as early as January, 2005).
Even if the Tower was somehow "exempt" from the charrette, does that mean it wasn't on the minds of at least a few people? Certainly, I considered it, and others mentioned it at my table. Couldn't its plans have affected input during the charrette?
Now, I think you can say it is exempt from (or not included in) the yet-unfinished master plan that was a product of the charrette. But, getting back to the fairness issue, that is as it should be. If the project's approval was already underway before the charrette, why should it be subject to rules and a plan generated after the fact?
"Because some people don't like it" is not a sufficient answer.