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Historic Preservation in Fort Worth: Good or Bad?


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#1 John T Roberts

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Posted 25 August 2010 - 06:43 AM

I don't have much time because I need to get to work, but I would like to start a catch-all thread on the philosophy of Historic Preservation. You may discuss any feelings you have about the subject here. Here are some things to think about. Do the preservationists take the wrong tactics? Should they purchase the property they want to save? When threats on historic buildings become more immediate, should the groups protest or express their opinions? Or should they just keep quiet, especially when it is at the 11th hour? Do the current preservation ordinances on the books here in Fort Worth invade on too many people's property rights. Should our preservation ordinances be strengthened so that it would be easier to get a structure designated as a historic landmark? Should our preservation ordinances be changed so that only the property owner can initiate such designations? Should we be appreciative of the developers who have brought derelict buildings back to life, even though the projects are partial preservation?

I would like to see a good dialog here, but I also will not tolerate any personal attacks on forum members. Keep the discussion friendly. I would like to see the thoughts of the members here.

#2 djold1

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Posted 25 August 2010 - 01:03 PM

Just a couple of points that I have already posted several times in the past::

I don't always agree with Bud K but he was right the other day in his column when he said that if any historic building or place is to be preserved, then the means to do that must exist in terms of financial resources and community acceptance. Just wanting to save is not enough. Being chained to the door or falling in front of the bulldozer is dramatic, but nothing works as well as a solid answer to the situation. Well thought out governmental policies can also help but they tend to end up conflicting with property rights and rightfully so.

Many years ago I read something somewhere that stuck with me: "Don't complain or argue unless you have an alternative solution that is practical and has a chance of working". Anything else is just bitching.

I personally think that while these knee-jerk reactions are understandable and generally about projects I agree with, that the long term solution is to start now, plan carefully, get as much through the government in terms of regulations as is practical and then start building a war chest of financial and public opinion as weapons for the future. It would be good to take the past and any new city historic surveys and try to anticipate and prioritize the importance (that will be a real dogfight!) and try to anticipate possible situations and plan for them as much as possible.



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#3 unknowntbone

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 01:18 PM

I can't answer many of your questions because I'm not very familial with the policies, rules, and guidelines of Fort Worth Historic Preservation (if that's even what it's known as) But I am a lifelong resident of Fort Worth and I have seen both successes (Magnolia and Fairmount) and failures (Hells Half Acre, 7th St. Theater)
I can't say if we're better off or worse off for having preserved (or lost) these areas. I DO think that if a party buys a property with no 'preservation strings' attached, then that party has the right to do whatever they want to do with it--legally, of course--without ANY preservationist encumbrances.
I guess that when we started developing land outside the gates of the original fort, we started destroying the tallgrass prairie that used to dominate the landscape of this area. So maybe an absolute preservation would be to bulldoze the whole shebang. Since we can't do that, I guess we need to pick our battles carefully--and well in advance--while respecting the rights of the property owners.

#4 Fire-Eater

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 09:31 PM

Thanks, John; it's good to be back. I'm not going to comment (too much) on the Ridglea. I am so demoralized over that situation. I am sick to my stomach over the piece written by Bud Kennedy I read yesterday. What a disappointment. He thinks the Bowie Theater on Camp Bowie is a success story? He thinks the gutted interior is historic preservation??? It made me sad to realize that one of Fort Worth's most progressive journalists has NO CLUE about what's going on (or not) with historic preservation in this city. Here it is, five(?) years after the Montgomery Ward debacle and historic preservationists are STILL being BLAMED for Fort Worth's lack of foresight. Does Mr. Kennedy know that Farrington Field, about which he wrote today, has NO historic designation???


In answer to your questions:
Do the preservationists take the wrong tactics? John, the tactics of Fort Worth historic preservationists are defensive and reactive. Yes, these are "last minute" attempts to save buildings. As a preservationist, I prefer PROACTIVE preservation. It is difficult, however, to be PROACTIVE when the movement is under funded and the populace is under-educated. Like an army that is undermanned with few supplies, Fort Worth preservationists only have the resources to defend the most threatened part of the line. “Every man into the breach!” We can't expect many partisans to come to our aid because most Fort Worth citizens do not understand the value of preservation.

Should they purchase the property they want to save? As mentioned above, Fort Worth preservationists are under funded. Purchasing some properties is possible, yes, as Historic Fort Worth, Inc. has done. Even with a BIG benefactor, it is not possible to purchase all the properties worthy of preservation in FW. Rather than BUY historic properties, the City could regulate how these properties are used through its Historic Preservation Ordinance. Here is the rub: the City has a Historic Preservation Ordinance, but it is not interested in using it. If the Ridglea had been designated a historic property, this would not be an issue of "last minute," "obstructionist" historic preservationists trying to stop "progress." The simple fact is that the City Council refuses to provide leadership to Fort Worth citizens in the area of historic preservation. The HP ordinance is merely lip service. Bud Kennedy!--Here's some investigative journalism for you: how many years has the HP ordinance been in effect, and how many properties have been designated? The City Council doesn't want to protect historic buildings because this stymies "progress."

Speaking of designations, Farrington Field was the subject of an article in today’s Star-Telegram. It's an undesignated property. How long until it is demolished???


When threats on historic buildings become more immediate, should the groups protest or express their opinions? Or should they just keep quiet, especially when it is at the 11th hour? Because we don't have deep pockets, preservationists can only afford to be REACTIVE. The answer to the question -- Should we keep quiet? -- is NO. We prefer to be proactive, but, since we go-it alone, with no help from the City of Fort Worth, we cannot afford to be proactive. Bud Kennedy gets no apologies from me. Preservationists operate within their means.

Do the current preservation ordinances on the books here in Fort Worth invade on too many people's property rights. Should our preservation ordinances be strengthened so that it would be easier to get a structure designated as a historic landmark? Should our preservation ordinances be changed so that only the property owner can initiate such designations? Property rights: that's a big issue in Texas. Unless, of course, your next door neighbor wants to do something with their property--and you don't like what they're doing!!! The City of Fort Worth -- generally speaking -- does not appreciate its historic buildings. This is evidenced by our current situation. HP is not a priority in this city. There's a very good ordinance on the books, but it's really not used. There are few financial incentives available. Until the citizens really CARE about their historic buildings, nothing will be done, regardless of ordinances.


Should we be appreciative of the developers who have brought derelict buildings back to life, even though the projects are partial preservation? No. Yes. No. That's a tough one. I hate the Bowie, because of its gutted interior, but I appreciate its vague semblance to what once was there. The ultimate answer is NO. Why should I appreciate someone who does something that only fits their bottom line? It benefited them to do what they did. And they wouldn't have done it unless they made money. I APPRECIATE companies like XTO who do it RIGHT. They could've cut corners, but instead they saw beyond the project's bottom line and did something that is PROFITABLE TO ALL!

Thanks for the opportunity to vent, John. I took my wife to Savannah, Georgia, this summer. She was awestruck. Savannah is a city, among many others, that seeks to preserve its unique physical culture. For all its talk about "Cowtown," the City of Fort Worth is not interested in preserving its past. Money is the most important thing to this city. Lining the pockets of developers, who line the pockets of ____(?) is what makes this City run.

The saddest thing of all is that there's money in Historic Preservation. Savannah benefits TREMENDOUSLY from "Heritage Tourism." Tourism is a huge industry. People visit cities to explore its past. Fort Worth, however, won't even protect the Stockyards--owners can demolish their historic buildings if they please (or alter them in hideous fashions!) At the rate Fort Worth is going, there’ll soon be little physical evidence of its historic past.

I think I’ll “cc” Bud Kennedy on this. Again, he’s such a disappointment to me.
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History is but the record of the public and official acts of human beings. It is our object, therefore, to humanize our history and deal with people past and present; people who ate and possibly drank; people who were born, flourished and died; not grave tragedians, posing perpetually for their photographs. ~Bill Nye, History of the United States

For me there is no greater subject than history. How a man can study it and not be forced to become a philosopher, I cannot tell. ~George E. Wilson




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#5 John T Roberts

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 09:47 PM

Great replies to my questions, Fire-eater! It is good to have you back. Hopefully, this thread will generate more discussion.

#6 Birdland in Handley

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Posted 27 August 2010 - 12:00 AM

Would like to see a little slack given for energy-saving, double-glazed windows in sashes that look authentic but are not made of authentic materials. Seems like there were some rather picky window-wars a couple of years ago.

#7 David Love

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Posted 28 August 2010 - 03:52 PM

How can a city interested in preserving its historic assets prevent its preservation policies from being utilized by those not really interested in preservation at all but see it more as a tool to cause delays, which are very costly in real estate, derail planned projects they're against or a way to impose limitations on a property to protect their own personal interests in the area?

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#8 Brian Luenser

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 07:07 AM

Today's Fort Worth Star Telegram has plenty to say about the demolition attempts of the Hazel Peace house. The paper's main editorial came out in favor of the demolition and considers the Historic Fort Worth appeal to stop the demolition a bad decision. (And a letter to the editor mirrors the negative sentiment)

http://www.star-tele...d-historic.html

I am not very informed about the house. But just a morning's worth of research makes me think the Historic Fort Worth really blew it on this one.
Old house, in disrepair, standing in the way of an expansion of a church school in not a great neighborhood? Tear it down. Even Hazel Harvey did not consider it her primary home. It is not architectural delight. Hazel Harvey donated property to the church of as a fan of the church and school. Lots of bad press for Historic Fort Worth. Seems to me that they should save their ammunition for really good causes. I think this action has set them back years. This seems to be starting a chain reaction of "who really has the right to claim historic designations and at what cost to a property owner and neighborhood?" I pretty much live in Fort Worth because I love great old buildings. Not because I love old buildings. I sure don't love crappy old buildings. BTW I consider the Ridglea worthy of saving. Of course it is not my property.

Old icky house, in the way of meaningful progress? This one should have suffered no Resistance at all. Bring in the tractors.
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#9 John S.

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 12:40 PM

That was a brilliant post, Fire-Eater! I tend to get wordy and a bit rambling in expressing my own sentiments, but you nailed the whole preservation picture here in just a few words. As you clearly state, we have effective preservation ordinances on the books but they just sit gathering dust. We have a development-first, preservation-last, culture in our current City bureaucracy. The written opinions expressed recently in our local newspaper show that it too has apparently taken a development-first bias against preservation. I'll admit that there have been a few instances of advocacy for saving structures around Fort Worth that have left me scratching my head wondering about their significance while others I considered important have been allowed to quietly disappear without fanfare or protest. An example of the former was the old Belknap street bridge coming in off HWY 121. It is important we choose our challenges carefully and preserve our goodwill within the community while advocating the goals of historic preservation.

In any event, you are 100% correct in assessing the meager resources of Fort Worth perservationists. We do have a few folks here with deep pockets who could tip the scales a little in our favor if they wanted to, but not enough is being done right now. As you stated:"I took my wife to Savannah, Georgia, this summer. She was awestruck. Savannah is a city, among many others, that seeks to preserve its unique physical culture. For all its talk about "Cowtown," the City of Fort Worth is not interested in preserving its past. Money is the most important thing to this city. Lining the pockets of developers, who line the pockets of ____(?) is what makes this City run. The saddest thing of all is that there's money in Historic Preservation. Savannah benefits TREMENDOUSLY from "Heritage Tourism." Tourism is a huge industry. People visit cities to explore its past. Fort Worth, however, won't even protect the Stockyards--owners can demolish their historic buildings if they please (or alter them in hideous fashions!) At the rate Fort Worth is going, there’ll soon be little physical evidence of its historic past." So true. The biggest obstacle is how do we change this "progressive" culture which is development driven, or is it simply too late? I could see real benefit in relocating some isolated and/or threatened early historic FW homes to the Stockyards to have our local version of Old City Park as they have in Dallas. That kind of architectural "petting zoo" may become inevitable in the reality of our aggressively pro-development political environment. Some of the early architecture along Samuels Avenue comes to mind for consideration, but as development there is in a stasis presently due to the recession, perhaps there's some small chance of saving what remains without such drastic action. Developers are also only part of the problem there, some homeowners of historic properties see no value in preservation, no matter how compelling the arguments.

I've already accepted the dim prospects evident for historic preservation in our City. Accordingly, our for sale sign remains posted in the yard. I have many preservation opportunities awaiting upon relocation with far less frustration than I have to put up with here. While I will certainly miss a number of unique things about Fort Worth, the current dismal state of historic preservation will not be one of them. Again, excellent post Fire-Eater, it mirrors my views perfectly.

#10 SWRebel

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 08:56 PM

I owned a home in Mistletoe Heights.
The minority won and the neighborhood was saddled with an Historical Overlay(it was interesting how they hoodwinked the City Council).
I moved away as quickly as I could.

You buy your own food, cook as you want to.
You OWN your clothing, dress as you want to.
You OWN your car, decorate it and paint it any color you want.
You can guess how I feel about the most expensive thing I will ever own.
"To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, ‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, & the fruits acquired by it.'"

#11 John T Roberts

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 09:17 PM

I had always thought that the Mistletoe Heights overlay was achieved by a majority vote.

#12 John S.

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 09:45 PM

I owned a home in Mistletoe Heights.
The minority won and the neighborhood was saddled with an Historical Overlay(it was interesting how they hoodwinked the City Council).
I moved away as quickly as I could.
You buy your own food, cook as you want to.
You OWN your clothing, dress as you want to.
You OWN your car, decorate it and paint it any color you want.
You can guess how I feel about the most expensive thing I will ever own.


I'm curious, since you obviously objected to this overlay, as to how it specifically negatively impacted you? In most instances, a historic zoning overlay actually increases home values and stabilizes a neighborhood. Outside of preserving the character of a neighborhood, this overlay is not very restrictive. I assume when you moved to Mistletoe Heights you found the neighborhood's character appealing, or did you dislike it and want it to change and be redeveloped into something completely different? In your list of things which you "control", what loss of control did you experience from historic zoning overlay?

Please keep in mind that the City already has an exhaustive list of things you are NOT allowed to do within the city limits as well as a list of obligations you must fulfill as a property owner (Not the least of them is paying annual taxes on your property)-you cannot shoot off firearms in your yard, you cannot allow your yard to become overgrown with weeds over a certain height, you cannot bury trash or burn trash on your property, but somehow a designation respecting the historical significance of your home and neighborhood is overly restrictive? You are not alone in your sentiments; I have many neighbors who share your views and I respect your opinion and theirs, but I'm honestly trying to understand what is so "wrong" with historic zoning? Maybe some feel that showing any respect for our local history is fundamentally wrong so why not simply bulldoze the Stockyards, our old eyesore Courthouse, and any other Fort Worth structure or house that doesn't look like it was built yesterday? Some really cool-looking tall condos could be built in a bulldozer-cleared Mistletoe Heights with fantastic water views. Perhaps as happens in some old Dallas neighborhoods, millionaires could buy the smaller homes, tear them down, and then build sprawling new McMansions overshadowing their neighbors? (and pushing up property taxes for everyone) Maybe I'm mistaken, but to me it seems that a historic zoning overlay is not overly burdensome, and actually has some positives. Some of the choicest neighborhoods in the country have historic zoning and I have not heard many objections, so I would appreciate it if you could help me understand this issue more clearly.

#13 Fire-Eater

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 10:28 PM

Brian Luenser says, "I pretty much live in Fort Worth because I love great old buildings. Not because I love old buildings." At the rate we're going, there won't be much of either pretty soon!

John -- are you thinking about moving?

There's a lot to be said about living in a community that shares one's values. This city, truly, places little value on its historic past.

Amy -- seriously John -- was, like, "Can we move to Savannah?" And she was dead serious. Savannah College of Art & Design has had an incredible impact on that town. It added to the synergy of an already vibrant preservation community.
WWSPFD?*

History is but the record of the public and official acts of human beings. It is our object, therefore, to humanize our history and deal with people past and present; people who ate and possibly drank; people who were born, flourished and died; not grave tragedians, posing perpetually for their photographs. ~Bill Nye, History of the United States

For me there is no greater subject than history. How a man can study it and not be forced to become a philosopher, I cannot tell. ~George E. Wilson




*What Would Susan Pringle Frost Do?

#14 Fire-Eater

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 10:34 PM

And did I mention I'm glad, for all concerned, that SWRebel moved out of Mistletoe? Hopefully he won't move back to Wedgwood. I'm enjoying its 1960ishness. I'd hate for him to buy a house down here and want to do a bunch of crap to it. Or worse yet, buy two ranch-style houses, demolish them, and build a giant three-story Neo-Georgia Revival. If that's private property rights, then I'm with Barney Fife: Nip-it-in-the-bud!
WWSPFD?*

History is but the record of the public and official acts of human beings. It is our object, therefore, to humanize our history and deal with people past and present; people who ate and possibly drank; people who were born, flourished and died; not grave tragedians, posing perpetually for their photographs. ~Bill Nye, History of the United States

For me there is no greater subject than history. How a man can study it and not be forced to become a philosopher, I cannot tell. ~George E. Wilson




*What Would Susan Pringle Frost Do?

#15 Fire-Eater

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 10:41 PM

And another thing, SWRebel, no one can seem to find the source for that Jefferson quote you use in your signature. Certainly not Jefferson . . .


http://wiki.monticel...st...(Quotation)
WWSPFD?*

History is but the record of the public and official acts of human beings. It is our object, therefore, to humanize our history and deal with people past and present; people who ate and possibly drank; people who were born, flourished and died; not grave tragedians, posing perpetually for their photographs. ~Bill Nye, History of the United States

For me there is no greater subject than history. How a man can study it and not be forced to become a philosopher, I cannot tell. ~George E. Wilson




*What Would Susan Pringle Frost Do?

#16 lyleswk

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 06:35 AM

I don't get why if you want a new house, you just simply don't go and buy one rather than go through the pain of tearing an old one down and building, not to mention the simple bad financal risks of it. There are plenty of newer homes within the city limits. Oh by the way, I love my 60+ year old Mistletoe Heights house and don't mind the overlay.

#17 Brian Luenser

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 06:40 AM

And another thing, SWRebel, no one can seem to find the source for that Jefferson quote you use in your signature. Certainly not Jefferson . . .


http://wiki.monticel...st...(Quotation)



"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not"
I would say that if Jefferson did not say it, it was said by someone even wiser...
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#18 Fort Worthology

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 07:40 AM

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not"
I would say that if Jefferson did not say it, it was said by someone even wiser...


It's a bit simplistic, and I'm not sure what it has to do with historic zoning. In a debate about saving a historic neighborhood or building, who is "those willing to work" and who is "those who would not?" One could easily make the argument that "those willing to work" are the people who try to preserve links to the city's past, and "those who would not" are the people who just want to nuke & pave everything or demolish for some new Home Depot Special tract house or overwrought McMansion.

- Architecture/urban planning/transit blogger, Fort Worth Weekly

Fort Worth District 9 Zoning Commissioner


#19 Brian Luenser

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 09:35 AM


"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not"
I would say that if Jefferson did not say it, it was said by someone even wiser...


It's a bit simplistic, and I'm not sure what it has to do with historic zoning. In a debate about saving a historic neighborhood or building, who is "those willing to work" and who is "those who would not?" One could easily make the argument that "those willing to work" are the people who try to preserve links to the city's past, and "those who would not" are the people who just want to nuke & pave everything or demolish for some new Home Depot Special tract house or overwrought McMansion.


It should have been obvious that had had nothing to do with historic preservation. Period. Doesn't necessarily mean anybody is going to Hell or anything. A bit simplistic? Sure enough, no simple thought can be meaningful. Can it? :closedeyes:
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#20 Fire-Eater

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 09:49 AM


And another thing, SWRebel, no one can seem to find the source for that Jefferson quote you use in your signature. Certainly not Jefferson . . .


http://wiki.monticel...st...(Quotation)



"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not"
I would say that if Jefferson did not say it, it was said by someone even wiser...


I really don't know what it means. It doesn't make sense. Why would a democracy cease to exist if "you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not?" This country is not a democracy, anyway, it's a republic, and every social program in this republic has been approved by elected representatives. One thing I find so annoying about the Tea Party is their very name. As if this country has taxation without representation??? This movement appropriates an event from American history in which American colonists acted for their right to a representative government. It's like the Patriot Act, which it is not.
WWSPFD?*

History is but the record of the public and official acts of human beings. It is our object, therefore, to humanize our history and deal with people past and present; people who ate and possibly drank; people who were born, flourished and died; not grave tragedians, posing perpetually for their photographs. ~Bill Nye, History of the United States

For me there is no greater subject than history. How a man can study it and not be forced to become a philosopher, I cannot tell. ~George E. Wilson




*What Would Susan Pringle Frost Do?

#21 Fort Worthology

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 10:20 AM

It should have been obvious that had had nothing to do with historic preservation. Period. Doesn't necessarily mean anybody is going to Hell or anything. A bit simplistic? Sure enough, no simple thought can be meaningful. Can it? :closedeyes:


I don't think it was out of line for me to ask what it had to do with *the subject of the thread.*

And of course simple statements can be meaningful. For example:

"How will we know it's us without our past?" - John Steinbeck, "The Grapes of Wrath"

Also:

"Preservationists are the only people in the world who are invariably confirmed in their wisdom after the fact." - John Kenneth Galbraith

I also quite like:

"Tourism does not go to a city that has lost its soul." - Arthur Frommer

And:

"A house is so much more than timber, cement, and mortar. It is a love- structure which stores up memories. It is security, shelter, healing, and peace. It is the shared joys, tears, dreams, and heartbreaks of several generations." - Rev. W. R. Bouknight, III

And:

"[Grassroots preservation] is empty pocketbooks, bloody fingers, and private satisfactions. It is long hours, hard work, and no pay. It is a personal dialogue with ghosts. It is a face-to-face confrontation with the past... It is an equation between self and history so powerful that it makes us lie down in front of bulldozers, raise toppled statues, salvage old boats." - Peter Neill

And of course:

"We strain to listen to the ghosts and echoes of our inexpressibly wise past, and we have an obligation to maintain these places, to provide these sanctuaries, so that people may be in the presence of forces larger than those of the moment." - Ken Burns

- Architecture/urban planning/transit blogger, Fort Worth Weekly

Fort Worth District 9 Zoning Commissioner


#22 John S.

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 10:54 AM

John -- are you thinking about moving?
There's a lot to be said about living in a community that shares one's values. This city, truly, places little value on its historic past. Amy -- seriously John -- was, like, "Can we move to Savannah?" And she was dead serious. Savannah College of Art & Design has had an incredible impact on that town. It added to the synergy of an already vibrant preservation community.


F.E., Just for clarity, I'm the "John" on Samuels Avenue and have been since 1989. (not our esteemed forum moderator-owner having the same first name, Mr. Roberts) Yes, relocation from FW appears to be our preferred option for a number of reasons. We visited Cincinnati Ohio, last April and were blown away by the historic architecture remaining there. I have a good friend, a retired attorney originally from Indianapolis, who is becoming very well known in the Historic Preservation community in that city. I've spent over two years carefully researching all of the implications of relocating to the Queen City.(Cincinnati was using that title long before FW; it was also called "Porkopolis" for the same reasons we became "Cowtown") Because I've specialized in preservation construction in recent years, with significant projects completed in Missouri and California, Cincinnati appears tailor made and my first objective would be to reopen a shop/business while renting a home for a few months. Historic real estate (because there is so much) is relatively cheap there, especially for fixer-uppers. I think we could make a real contribution in advancing the cause of historic preservation because there is so much worth preserving in the old Riverboat city on the Ohio River. We also visited a number of smaller historic communities in Pennsylvania and found a couple of incredible historic homes on the market at fire-sale prices. Both regions have drawbacks (mostly economic) as well as unique advantages. As I get older, the Texas summer heat is getting a lot harder to endure and I love to work and be active outdoors. Of course, colder winters are a consideration but I don't mind much living in an area with four distinct seasons. Anyhow, I can certainly understand and appreciate you and your wife's feelings about Savannah-it's a whole 'nother place and different reality than in FW. Given the current glacial pace of real estate activity around here, I intend to do whatever I can to promote the goals of historic preservation while we remain here. Heck, FW could be my final destination and I just don't realize it yet; I'll turn 60 in a couple of months.(which makes the choice to relocate almost a "now or never" prospect) I'm way beyond being a "fan" of historic architecture, especially the ornate stuff from the latter 19th century, it pretty much defines my life's work and occupies much of my time. As you are aware, little architecture from that era remains in FW, which is another compelling reason to consider relocation in addition to the other excellent reasons you mentioned. Sorry to digress and stray off-topic, but I did want to present our position this one time. Just in case someone is curious to see some of the Cincinnati historic architecture I'm talking about, here's a good sample: (compare this to any historic area in FW) Cincinnati architectural marvels

#23 Dismuke

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 01:01 PM

A historic overlay can be very beneficial for someone who buys into a neighborhood where one is already in place. If you move into the neighborhood because you value its historical character, then it offers you protection that its character will stay in place and will not be transformed into the sort of commonplace, bland neighborhoods that you specifically chose to avoid. It is not unreasonable for property owners who value that which makes the neighborhood unique and special to have a strong desire to see it preserved and not spoiled by being subjected to the fads of the moment.

And if one buys into the neighborhood after the overlay has been put in place, then unless the existing restrictions are changed at a later date, they are NOT as much of a property rights issue simply because the buyer presumably was aware of the restrictions in the first place. Presumably anybody who either desired to utilize the property in other ways or had hope that other potential uses for it would cause the property to appreciate would NOT buy in and would, instead, seek a property elsewhere more suitable for their purposes.

But where the overlays ARE a problem from a property rights perspective is when they are imposed on owners who bought in BEFORE there was an overlay. I am not going to go into a lot of detail as to the various reasons that property owners might object because the details really don't matter. Whatever their reasons, it IS their property - and rights that they DID have in that property are suddenly being denied by the very government whose job is to protect and defend an owner's property rights. If you cannot at least UNDERSTAND why such people might object and be concerned about such things, I don't know that there is anything I can say that will convince you. If you cannot UNDERSTAND why a person would be concerned about his existing rights in a piece of property being suddenly limited, that pretty much indicates you are operating on the premise of: "other people ought to be forced to conform to my wishes and desires - and if they don't agree they just need to shut up and obey."

My basic point here is that property owners on BOTH sides of such a debate DO have valid concerns. And such debates ARE going to arise pretty much ANY time you have a very large number of property owners in very close geographical proximity to each other.

I also think it is important to clarify what property rights do and do not entail. I DO hold that property rights ARE absolute and inviolable - and that the sole function of government is to protect individual rights, which necessarily include property rights. But that does NOT translate into "you can do whatever the heck you like on or with your property."

Individual rights, including property rights, DO have limits. Those limits are the same exact rights that are possessed by EVERY OTHER individual. My rights end where yours begin - and my property rights end at my neighbors' property line.

What this means is that the application of one's property rights to any given scenario is highly contextual.

For example, if you own a large number of acres out in the middle of the country and the closest neighbor is a few miles away, then you have every right in the world to play your music as loud as you want, to own lots of pigs and roosters, to shoot guns at targets, to host loud and wild outdoor nudist parties or even have outdoor orgies. Undoubtedly there will be people who disapprove of what you are doing - but that is irrelevant because you are not violating anybody's rights in any way whatsoever.

On the other hand, you do NOT have a right to do any of those things in a Fort Worth residential neighborhood precisely because it would constitute a violation of your neighbor's property rights.

How one person uses his property can and often does have an impact on his neighbor's property - and, as a result, disputes between property owners ARE going to rise. And it IS a proper function of government to resolve such disputes.

In some cases, how such disputes ought to be resolved is pretty clear. If someone decides to put up a slaughter house on the empty parcel of land next to my house and forces me to endure noise and foul odors, then that is a very clear violation of my property rights. If the slaughter house has been in operation for years in the middle of a rural area or industrial district and you decide to build some houses next to the slaughter house then the negatives associated with the slaughter house is nobody's problem but yours and the people who subsequently buy those houses.

Where it becomes difficult is the fact that most disputes do NOT involve clear violations of other people's property rights.

If you build an ugly McMansion or erect a mobile home next to my 1920s house, that is NOT a violation of my property rights. It in no way impedes my ability to enjoy the use of my property in a residential context. I may no longer enjoy the view from my window - but I don't have any sort of inherent easement on other people's property to a view that suits my tastes. If I decide to sell my house, a mobile home next door might make my house less desirable in the eyes of many buyers which could end up being reflected in the price I can get for it. But I do not have any sort of inherent right a specific property valuation. I merely have a right to sell the property for whatever sum somebody else is willing to pay for it. There are a LOT of things in this world that can cause the market value of my house or other property to fall which, while not pleasant, do not constitute violations of my rights.

On the other hand, while none of the above examples involve violations of property rights, I don't think anybody will dispute the fact that they are VERY valid CONCERNS. And it is entirely reasonable for property owners to seek out ways to prevent such disputes with their neighbors from arising in the first place.

I submit that the best way to do it is by contractual means. A contract is a means by which you can extend your property rights and limit those of your neibhbors in ways that are not covered or recognized in default situations. If you buy into a property and sign a contractual agreement with a neighborhood association that all properties within that neighborhood can only be used in specifically delimited ways, then you DO have a property rights issue when your neighbor becomes non-conforming. And, when your neighbors demand that you comply with the terms of the agreement, it is NOT an imposition on your property rights.

There are some suburbs that require the developers of all new housing developments to create such a homeowners association from the get go and require all buyers to become members. I suspect that they do it because city hall is tired of having to be in the middle of all the various disputes and neighborhood controversies. I like that approach because it is, ultimately, it is a way of working out resolutions in a manner that everybody has voluntarily agreed to. I have read of instances where homeowners associations have become absolute nightmares and have descended into mini-tyrannies lorded over by the very worst sorts of busybody types. But that is primarily of how to properly implement them and to put in protections and limitations on their powers. And it is a proper function of a city government to make sure that such associations do not overstep their bounds.

Such contractual approaches are much easier to establish in new neighborhoods than in existing ones. I will be the first to admit that implementing such an approach in an existing neighborhood us much more difficult.


My problem with zoning is that it is an authoritarian, heavy handed approach to solving legitimate issues that are best worked out on a contractual basis.

On a related but different point, John wrote:

I had always thought that the Mistletoe Heights overlay was achieved by a majority vote.


I do realize that the context of this remark was to question a previous assertion that the Mistletoe Heights overlay was voted in by a minority and NOT a commentary on the desirability of the overlay.

But I bring it up because "a majority voted for it" is often used as a justification for all sorts of things. And my answer to that is always: "so what?" A majority does not somehow magically gain special rights that are not possessed by any given individual within that majority. For example, you do NOT have a right to shoplift. The fact that you are able to assemble a gang whose membership far exceeds the number of shop owners does NOT somehow give your majority any valid authority to call an election over whether the whether the stores ought to be looted.
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#24 Fire-Eater

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 02:50 PM

I respect your point of view Mr. Dismuke, but I disagree passionately with your statement: "If you build an ugly McMansion or erect a mobile home next to my 1920s house, that is NOT a violation of my property rights. It in no way impedes my ability to enjoy the use of my property in a residential context."

When I buy a house I also buy the neighborhood, figuratively speaking. If I buy a 1968 ranch house in Wedgwood, which I have done, I do not want somebody building a crappy McMansion anywhere in my soon-to-be-historic subdivision! Such a building WOULD impede my ability to enjoy my property. Are you BLIND, man? (a rhetorical question.) Let's magically transport my house to the industrial portion of Hemphill. You reckon the ENVIRONMENT in which my house is located has ANYTHING to do with how I enjoy the particular piece of property I own??? Are you familiar with the concept of "visual environment?" I suppose people can be "architecture blind" just as they can be "tone deaf," but, in my case, the visual environment of Wedgwood contributes SIGNIFICANTLY to my ability to enjoy the use of my property.

And that mobile home? It could set-off a chain reaction that could DESTROY my property value.
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History is but the record of the public and official acts of human beings. It is our object, therefore, to humanize our history and deal with people past and present; people who ate and possibly drank; people who were born, flourished and died; not grave tragedians, posing perpetually for their photographs. ~Bill Nye, History of the United States

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#25 Fire-Eater

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 02:59 PM

Thanks for the tip, John S! We almost moved to Louisville KY 5 years ago. Family is keeping us here, and I really do love Fort Worth -- I hate to see the lack of concern for preserving it. I hope, God-willing, you've got AT LEAST 30 more good years in ya! God knows historic preservation needs you!
WWSPFD?*

History is but the record of the public and official acts of human beings. It is our object, therefore, to humanize our history and deal with people past and present; people who ate and possibly drank; people who were born, flourished and died; not grave tragedians, posing perpetually for their photographs. ~Bill Nye, History of the United States

For me there is no greater subject than history. How a man can study it and not be forced to become a philosopher, I cannot tell. ~George E. Wilson




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#26 John S.

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 09:01 PM

Dismuke,
Part of your sentiments make sense, but I still fail to see what an onerous burden a historic zoning overlay specifically places on a homeowner. One somewhat unconvincing argument I've often heard concerns the use of paint, or more specifically, what colors one can use. I'm not aware of any historic district which limits the use of paint to only a very few specific colors. In most instances, there's a fairly wide latitude allowed in the color palette that can be used-some of the houses I've seen in historic districts even fit into the "Painted Lady" category with a peacock spectrum of colors in complex patterns and applications. Go look around the Southside-Fairmount District, you'll find a kaleidoscope of colors. The purpose of seeking period appropriate colors is to tie the house to its original era of construction. Additions to a house in a historic district do have to be approved by a design review committee, but again, the "restrictions" are limited and based on common sense designed to enhance and keep the historic character-they are not designed to somehow "punish" homeowners. Even in non-historic zoned areas, any additions to an existing structure must meet city code and be properly permitted.

Some of these same logical "rights" arguments were made when barbed wire was introduced to Western States in the 1870's. It was argued that free range access was a fundamental "right" and the many cattle drives leaving north from Fort Worth would have been impossible without this informal frontier understanding. As you correctly pointed out by using the examples you shared, rights or personal freedoms, vary. An incarcerated person has very few personal freedoms/rights as also does someone serving in a military chain of command. By comparison, an apartment dweller or person within the jurisdiction of a homeowners association still has some personal rights that are restricted. These become fewer for people living independently in a City and fewer still living in a small rural community until you progressively enter a remote rural environment. The next logical expansion of personal "rights" or freedom would be living in rural Wyoming or Montana, followed perhaps by the Australian Outback.

All these examples are merely to illustrate that living within a city jurisdiction limits our personal rights to a certain degree whether that includes living in a historic zoned area or not. While historic zoning adds some limitations and requirements (which are what always causes consternation for some folks) it also bestows benefits which are equally shared by those within the zoned boundaries. These restrictions only pertain to your house to help perserve those desireable features than come from the passage of time. But they do not restrict you personally-in a historic zoned area, you could still wear your hair in a ponytail, wear Love beads and drive a 1960's VW Microbus in rainbow colors if that is your thing. Are you aware that a historic zoned property or district can also petition to have that zoning changed or even removed? Through the historic zoning administrative function, residents can also request to change or modify some of the zoning overlay details.

When looking at it objectively, it seems that historic zoning is actually pretty benign and if it provides some tangible tax benefits or restoration assistance, how can that be so bad? Despite all the assertions about the loss of your "rights" stemming from historic zoning overlay, I don't think you have yet clearly proven your case about its real detrimental effects. Maybe I just don't get it somehow. And yes, majority decisions do carry the rule of law, from the decisions issued by supreme court justices down to those by neighborhood associations-that is what living in a democracy is all about.

#27 Dismuke

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 02:10 AM

I respect your point of view Mr. Dismuke, but I disagree passionately with your statement: "If you build an ugly McMansion or erect a mobile home next to my 1920s house, that is NOT a violation of my property rights. It in no way impedes my ability to enjoy the use of my property in a residential context."

When I buy a house I also buy the neighborhood, figuratively speaking. If I buy a 1968 ranch house in Wedgwood, which I have done, I do not want somebody building a crappy McMansion anywhere in my soon-to-be-historic subdivision! Such a building WOULD impede my ability to enjoy my property. Are you BLIND, man? (a rhetorical question.) Let's magically transport my house to the industrial portion of Hemphill. You reckon the ENVIRONMENT in which my house is located has ANYTHING to do with how I enjoy the particular piece of property I own???


There is a difference between your disliking and disapproving of the changes that take place in your neighborhood and whether or not those changes violate your property rights.

I understand why you would dislike those changes - and I am actually very sympathetic towards your sentiments on that. I feel the same way about people in my neighborhood painting the bricks on their 1920s bungalows or tearing them down for McMansions. But people doing those things does NOT violate my property rights.

You are NOT buying a neighborhood - you are buying one house that is IN a neighborhood of houses which belong to other people, some of whom are going to have opinions, values and goals that are very different than yours and which might even be very much at odds with your values.

To help clarify the issue, let's take the exact same premise and mindset you are coming from and apply it towards something other than historic preservation.

Let's suppose a trend emerges where gay couples and mixed race couples start buying houses in a stable middle class neighborhood where few, if any, such households previously existed. Now, let's say that, once this trend becomes noticeable, a whole bunch of people in that neighborhood go ballistic and demanded that something be done to stop it. Let's say that the spokesperson for the groups loudly asserts: "When I buy a house I also buy the neighborhood, figuratively speaking - and the reason my family moved into this neighborhood was because of its traditional family values. I moved to this neighborhood so I could raise my kinds in a traditional family values environment and I can no longer do that nor can I enjoy my house anymore. The other day, I was in the front yard and saw two men sitting on the front porch across the street holding hands. What if my son saw that? And this morning when I was packing the kids into the car for school, one of the men was leaving for work and when he was walking out the door the two men kissed each other - right in plain view of my kids. And that mixed race couple down the street - she is pregnant again. They are breeding little mulatto babies right in our own neighborhood. I raise my kids to believe that such behavior is sinful, will destroy their lives and cause them to burn in hell. I and and most of the long time residents here feel like we are now living in Sodom and Gomorrah. This is our neighborhood, not theirs. This is a violation of our property right to a neighborhood consistent with traditional family values. Why can't those people just go back to Oak Lawn or South Dallas or wherever it is that they belong?

Hopefully it should be clear to most people that the neighbors in that example do NOT have a leg to stand on. And if they do not like the peaceful, non-violent lifestyle of the neighborhoods new residents, it is THEIR problem, not the new residents.'

And just to be clear, I am NOT equating the desire for historic protection and restrictions in one's neighborhood with the sort of bigotry and narrow mindedness in my example. My wider point is this: the mere fact that you do not like or approve of what your neighbors do on or with their property does NOT give you any basis or right to stop it or make demands on them. The fact that you happen to live in a neighborhood does not mean that you own that neighborhood or that those who live in that neighborhood are obligated to subordinate their lives or their assets to your wishes, desires, opinions or values.

And that mobile home? It could set-off a chain reaction that could DESTROY my property value.


You are absolutely correct. It most likely would set off such a chain reaction. But, unless you have some sort of contractual agreement with the neighboring property owner that forbids it, the mobile home does NOT violate your property rights. You have a right to sell your property for whatever sum of money that someone else is willing to pay for it. But you do NOT have a right to a specific property valuation. You do NOT have a right to any guarantee that your property will appreciate in value or even maintain its value.

Once again, to illustrate the point, let's apply your exact logic to a somewhat different situation:

It is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that when certain ethnic minorities move into a neighborhood in large numbers, it tends to have a negative impact on property values. It may not be politically correct to point this out - but it is true, nevertheless. Some would say that this fact is a negative reflection on the overall state of our society. Others would say that it is a negative reflection on a certain small subset within that ethnic population. Regardless of why this happens - the simple fact is that, if property values go down as a result of minorities moving into the neighborhood, it is NOT a violation of the existing, long-term residents' property rights. One can certainly understand why the existing residents might be upset about the impact the situation has on their property values - who wouldn't be upset to see their property values decline? But, ultimately, it is THEIR problem - not the problem of the new neighbors who have done nothing wrong and who merely want to find a nice place to live and have every right in the world to buy there.

The fact is that you do NOT own your neighborhood. Nor can a whole bunch of like-minded neighbors band themselves together and properly assert that they own the neighborhood and that everybody else needs to conform to their wishes or else.

Neighborhoods can and do evolve and change over time. And sometimes that brings changes that you and perhaps most of your neighbors do not particularly like. The changes may, in fact, be so drastic that the entire character of the neighborhood changes to such a degree that you no longer enjoy living there. If you wake up one day and realize that every shop in the generic middle class Caucasian neighborhood you moved into 15 years ago now sports signs that are in some Oriental alphabet and you now have to drive several miles in order to find a grocery store that sells things such as Hamburger Helper and Mrs. Baird's Bread and where the staff speaks English - well, the character of your neighborhood has definitely changed. And the neighborhood may now feel to you more like a foreign country than it does home. And, maybe, because of this, the resale value of your house may be no higher than it was 15 years ago - and less if you factor inflation into the mix. Even so, your rights have, in no way, been violated. You do NOT own the neighborhood. You own your house - and that's all.

The fact that your neighbors do not share the same values you do does NOT inflict physical harm to your property not does it impinge on your ability to peacefully live in it. The fact that you have low regard for the architectural style of your neighbor's house and consider it to be an eyesore does, in no way, impact the physical condition of your property or your ability to live peacefully in it. You might want to throw up every time you look out the front window and see your neighbor's house - but, unfortunately for you, when you bought your house, there were no contracts or agreements in place to guarantee that you would like the view beyond your property line. Generally speaking, if you want a property where there is something in place that will protect the view beyond your property line, you usually have to pay a whole lot extra for it.

Now, if your neighbor has piles of garbage and is breeding vermin that threatens to come over on to your property - that violates your property rights. If your neighbor engages in activities that cause foul odors to drift across your property line, that violates your property rights. If your neighbor plays his music so loud you can hear it inside your house or engages in other activities that produce unnecessary sound, that violates your property rights. If your neighbor mows his lawn or has his house reroofed, that noise does not violate your property rights because it is temporary and necessary for the upkeep of his house. If your neighbor plants shrubs and grass that you think is ugly, unless your house came with some sort of agreement that is binding on neighboring properties, that is not a violation of your property rights. If he puts so much herbicide on his property that it ends up killing a tree on your property, then that is a violation of your property rights.

Are you familiar with the concept of "visual environment?" I suppose people can be "architecture blind" just as they can be "tone deaf," but, in my case, the visual environment of Wedgwood contributes SIGNIFICANTLY to my ability to enjoy the use of my property.


You are very correct. The visual environment DOES contribute to your ability to enjoy your property. And it is entirely reasonable to want your home's visual environment protected. And it is entirely reasonable, if you spend a whole lot of money on a high dollar house, to not want the large lot next door subdivided into space for three mobile homes. And it is entirely reasonable to want to live in a neighborhood where all property owners are expected to adhere to certain use requirements and certain minimal standards with regard to design, landscaping and maintenance.

But the mere fact that you buy any random piece of property does NOT automatically give you a right to such things. If you wish to have the right to demand that your neighbors adhere to certain standards in terms of how they use or maintain their property, then you have to acquire that right by voluntary and contractual means.

If you buy into a residential development where use restrictions are put in place either through deed restrictions or through a home owner's association, then you and your neighbors have entered into a binding contract to adhere to certain terms and conditions. And if one of your neighbors violates those terms and conditions, then it is not your property rights that have been violated but rather the specific contractual rights that you acquired along with your house. If you paid extra to have a house that backs up on to a large amount of scenic acreage that the developer agreed to leave undeveloped so as to afford you a nice view and he decides to, instead, renege and subdivides it to build additional houses - he has violated the terms of his contract.

Resolving issues like this is easy and straightforward in brand new, usually suburban, developments. Agreements on design and use standards and the implementation of mandatory homeowners' association membership can be put in place ahead of time. ALL property owners agree to such terms before they buy - and those who do not like such terms are free to go elsewhere.

I will be the first to admit that it is much more problematic in existing urban neighborhoods. It is next to impossible to put something in place that EVERY property owner in a neighborhood is going to agree with. Get dozens of people in a room and see how hard it is to find anything that every last one of them can agree with.

You might buy into an older neighborhood because of its historic and architectural charms. But the elderly guy who has owned the house next door for many years might have moved in when the neighborhood was considered undesirable because, at the time, it was a very cheap place to live. He now lives mostly on his Social Security income. His house is not falling down - but it needs tens of thousands of dollars of repairs and upgrades in order to be desirable to the more upscale people who are starting to move into the neighborhood. He is now being offered a princely sum of money from someone who wishes to tear it down and put up a larger house. The proceeds from the sale of his house are enough to enable him to buy a similarly sized house in a small town where houses are dirt cheap and have enough left over to provide a degree of financial security in his old age that he currently lacks. If a historic overlay is put in place that forbids his house from being torn down, he won't be able to get jack diddly squat from its sale because whoever buys it will need to fork over tens of thousands of dollars worth of repairs. He lived there long before you did and called the neighborhood his long before you called it yours - and now you are trying to impose brand new legal limits on what he may or may not do to his property, limits that WILL significantly reduce the monetary value of his property?

I will say this much - while I am NOT a fan of zoning, when it comes to neighborhoods where there are existing overlays and restrictions in place, I would NOT be supportive of any sort of unilateral repeal of such restriction. If you buy a house in Fairmount today, you do so with the understanding that there are certain restrictions and protections in place - and along with that comes the expectation that those restrictions and protections are also binding upon your neighbors. If the city suddenly decided it was no longer going to enforce those restrictions, in my mind that would be a breach of an implicit contract that property owners were counting on being in place when they bought into that neighborhood.

In short, I have zero problem with use and aesthetic restrictions on private property provided that those restrictions were voluntarily agreed upon by all parties in advance. My problem rests solely when such restrictions are imposed on existing unwilling property owners who were previously not subject to them. If you buy into a neighborhood where such restrictions are in place - then that is something you should have investigated ahead of time. And I am CERTAINLY sympathetic to the desire to protect the character of historic neighborhoods. Like I said, I HATE it when people paint the bricks on 1920s bungalows and I HATE it when someone tears down a bungalow and puts up a cheesy, pretentious yet tacky modern McMansion. But my opinions and my tastes and my preferences are NOT binding on other people. As much as I would sometimes like to, I don't get to set the terms of what other people can and cannot do with their property. The only property I have say so over is my own.
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#28 Dismuke

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 03:04 AM

Dismuke,
Part of your sentiments make sense, but I still fail to see what an onerous burden a historic zoning overlay specifically places on a homeowner.


If you have the patience to go through my admittedly lengthy previous posting, you will find one example - the old man on Social Security who has a old house in need of repair and is offered a tidy sum not for the house, which might actually have a negative market value, but for the lot so that a McMansion can be built on it.

But now that you are asking - I am actually curious as to where you stand on something. Clearly, like me, you love and value old houses. Like me, you see some of what has happened along Samuels over the years and find it heart breaking.

Unlike a lot of people here, the issues we are talking about in this thread are, for you, more than just some abstract intellectual/ideological exercise. You actually own a really cool historic house. And it is a historic house that needs maintenance, repairs and stuff like that. It is a house that sits on land that has a market value that is probably worth far more than the house. Unlike some of the property owners in your neighborhood, you clearly love your house and want the best for it. The thought of it being torn down is probably very painful for you. Heck, it is painful for me to think about - and it is not even my house. If I recall correctly, you have posted in the past about the possibility of that perhaps happening someday - and expressed the hope that it could be saved by being moved to a different location (I am going from memory here - so I may be wrong on that, and please correct me if I am)

That having been said, if you are like most people, your house probably also represents a respectable or perhaps even significant percentage of your net worth. Like everybody, you have bills to pay. And we live in uncertain economic times. Nobody can indifferent to his net worth - and I am sure you are no different in that respect than any of us.

So here is my question: Let's say a very credible effort is put in place to protect the handful of historic houses that are remaining in the Samuels neighborhood. This plan could either be some very, very strict restrictions imposed by the city or through deed restrictions that every property owner would be asked to sign. Either way, these restrictions would forbid any of these houses - including yours - from ever being demolished or moved from their present locations. That means that if you sell your house, what the new owners will be paying for is a really cool but very old house that they will need to sink lots of money in both in the short term and over time in terms of maintenance - and that will be reflected in the selling price which I assume would be quite a lot lower than what the house could fetch without the restrictions if the economy picked up and the neighborhood became "hot" again to developers.

Would you support those restrictions - even if it meant a big hit to the value of your property and the corresponding impact on your net wealth?

I hope I am not out of line by even asking this question - and I paused a moment before I decided to do so. I understand if you do not wish to answer. And I think either answer is valid and understandable. It is, after all, your house.

It is very easy for someone who does not own a historic property to have opinions on what the owners should or should not do with it. But it can be a lot more complicated if it so happens that it is YOUR money at stake - especially if that property represents a sizable portion of your net worth and its ultimate disposition could mean the difference whether you do or do not get a measure of financial security that could forever improve the quality of your life.

I know it would be a very difficult choice for me. I love old buildings. But, like everybody else, I have bills to pay - and, even aside from that, the sale of expensive real estate that an old building happens to sit on could sure buy a whole heck of a lot of 78 rpms and the $14,000 state of the art audio restoration equipment I would certainly love to own.
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#29 John S.

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 09:46 AM

Dismuke,
Wow...You tread dangerously close to the edge of political incorrectness with some of your statements: "It is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that when certain ethnic minorities move into a neighborhood in large numbers, it tends to have a negative impact on property values. It may not be politically correct to point this out - but it is true, nevertheless. Some would say that this fact is a negative reflection on the overall state of our society. Others would say that it is a negative reflection on a certain small subset within that ethnic population. Regardless of why this happens - the simple fact is that, if property values go down as a result of minorities moving into the neighborhood, it is NOT a violation of the existing, long-term residents' property rights."

Hey, welcome to 1950. I hate to break the news to you, but due to Federal Fair Housing laws, it now is illegal to discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, gender, religion, and more recently in most places, sexual orientation. So "property rights" be dammed. While that statement above would have been factual back in the polarized 1960's, there's increasing concern these days about gentrification and "Black Flight" within former inner-city minority populated areas. Samuels Avenue, since we moved here in 1989, has had a majority Hispanic population and that has never been a concern for me. Those Hispanic residents who own their homes in our neighborhood usually show a pride of ownership and have been instrumental in getting a police storefront and establishing a neighborhood association established here. Some of the historic homes we've considered in Cincinnati are in so-called minority neighborhoods but again, I refuse to accept streotypes or the status quo. Therefore, I disagree that minorities moving into a neighborhood automatically beings down property values. That thinking is based on the racist assumption that minorities always bring with them social ills such as crime and poverty-it is an outdated, dangerous, and inappropriate in this day and age. One need not have a very long memory to remember some of the most costly crimes in American history were committed in the past few years by individuals wearing suits, who were highly educated, and often of pale complexions. Millions lost their life savings due to these crooked people-how many street level muggings would it take to total up to the same amount of this financial disaster? Anyhow, Fort Worth has had an image problem in matters of racism and bigotry; I just felt I had to speak up and hope this aspect of the topic thread quietly and quickly dies.

Now, as to your specific question(s),yes, we have had to do a lot of soul searching about selling our home. However some hard facts of reality remain. One problematic fact is that from day one we have never had the financial resources to properly restore our historic home-21 years ago it seemed likely that we would eventually inherit or have some windfall that would allow a top to bottom restoration, even putting back missing details seen in period photos. Just hasn't happened and probably won't. Our home deserves better, no denying that. With the speed of a charging snail, I try to tackle small projects around the house, but the really big ones need a serious infusion of cold hard cash. Since development came to the neighborhood, the wisdom of putting a lot of additional money into a house which may have to be moved or, God forbid, even demolished, has entered into the equation. The biggest myth of the preservation world is that there's mysterious "grant money" out there for owners of historic homes. Nope. Ain't none, but sure would be nice if there wuz.

We did have an offer from a developer during the halcyon summer of 2008 when natural gas prices were approaching astronomical levels; petroluem and gasoline prices were at unsustainable levels, and the Fort Worth economy was "hot". The offer was within $25k of our asking price but it came with the condition that our home would most likely be demolished. We countered at full price and had that somehow been accepted it would have been also conditioned on an conscious effort being made to relocate our 1889 home to another safe location. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the developer balked at our counter, and the deal died. Today, developer demand, if there still is any, is future speculative and not based on current real estate reality. Would I/we accept a historic zoning overlay? Maybe, but it would have to apply to some other properties in the neighborhood as well to create a semblance of a "district". Otherwise, I could envision having a historic zoned house being surrounded by new apartments and condos. (as a similar example seen adjacent to Villa De Leon and Lincoln Apartments today) One of the ironies of life is that a sale of our home would readily provide us with the funds to buy and restore another one, but not this one. Since estimated property values here are all over the map, tapping into the equity is not realistic either. Bankers will not lend on a 125 year old house needing work. As mentioned, there are other personal factors in the desire to sell, so it is not a simple issue and will have to be considered carefully.

#30 Dismuke

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 12:40 PM

Hey, welcome to 1950. I hate to break the news to you, but due to Federal Fair Housing laws, it now is illegal to discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, gender, religion, and more recently in most places, sexual orientation....... Anyhow, Fort Worth has had an image problem in matters of racism and bigotry; I just felt I had to speak up and hope this aspect of the topic thread quietly and quickly dies.



But, actually, the point you are making was specifically why I used that particular example. People did use the argument of property rights and of the protection of property values as a pretext for racial segregation. And, unfortunately, it is a matter of historical record that property values were adversely impacted when minorities moved in - mere racisim alone did not fuel white flight but also panic selling on the part of people wishing to get out before their property value declined further.

And I am not convinced that this was something that happened only in the 1950s and 1960s. I have a friend who grew up in a working class predominantly white neighborhood in Mississippi. In the early '90s the neighborhood began to transition to becoming a majority black neighborhood. My friend's family is not at all racist and they did not have any problems or concerns at all with their black neighbors. But a number of their white neighbors panicked and began putting their houses up for sale all at the same time. A whole bunch of houses hitting the market all at once from sellers wanting to get out did have an adverse impact on property values. My friend's parents already had long term plans to relocate to a small town for their retirement. They made the decision to move the relocation up a few years. They did so not because they had a problem having black neighbors but because they were counting on the equity that they had in their house to fund their relocation. They simply could not afford to sit back and watch trend with neighborhood property values play out. They were fortunate in that they were able to get their asking price - but that price was still lower than what comparable homes in the neighborhood were selling for a few years earlier.

My wider point is this - it is certainly sad when people see the value of their homes decline. But what happened to the property value of my friend's parents was NOT a violation of their property rights or any other right. There is no entitlement to a specific property value. Just because something happens within a neighborhood that adversely impacts your property value, it does NOT follow that it is a violation of your property rights. Just because the character of your neighborhood changes, it does NOT follow that the property rights of existing residents have been violated.


Anyhow, Fort Worth has had an image problem in matters of racism and bigotry


Every large city in the South has some ugly chapters in its history in that regard. But I am not aware of anything that would make Fort Worth stand out as being significantly worse than any other city in that regard. Neighboring Dallas seems to me to have always had far worse racial tensions. And I think a case could be made today that racial tensions are far worse in certain northern cities than they are in many parts of the South.

At any rate, my intention was not to draw attention to racial issue but rather to use a very clear cut and historical illustration of the fallacy behind using a property rights/property value argument in order to impose one's wishes, desires, tastes, opinions and values upon one's neighbors.
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#31 Fire-Eater

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 08:34 PM

Very interesting points by both John S & Dismukes. I am trying to wrap my mind around Dismukes' points. I think Dismukes is saying that the laws for the use of one's property should never change without one's approval. Dismukes recognizes the importance of the visual environment and notes that new communities REGULATE such through deeds and approves of such -- because new owners know what they're getting into. I remember studying set-backs in my Historic Preservation Law course in college. I think it was in the 1920s that some new residential areas regulated size & set-back of homes through the property deed.

What historic preservation ordinances try to do is regulate a kind of anarchy -- an absence of regulations for property use. And Dismukes would say that such anarchy must not be inhibited unless the individual owner approves.

With such a view, zoning changes are illegal unless approved by all the owners.

The Fort Worth city limits, likewise, cannot expand to incorporate areas without approval of every property owner whose land is affected.

Dismukes does not believe in majority rule. He believes that everyone must approve or the law is a violation of the individual's rights. Yes?
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History is but the record of the public and official acts of human beings. It is our object, therefore, to humanize our history and deal with people past and present; people who ate and possibly drank; people who were born, flourished and died; not grave tragedians, posing perpetually for their photographs. ~Bill Nye, History of the United States

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#32 Fire-Eater

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 08:36 PM

Very interesting, Dismukes. Very interesting!
WWSPFD?*

History is but the record of the public and official acts of human beings. It is our object, therefore, to humanize our history and deal with people past and present; people who ate and possibly drank; people who were born, flourished and died; not grave tragedians, posing perpetually for their photographs. ~Bill Nye, History of the United States

For me there is no greater subject than history. How a man can study it and not be forced to become a philosopher, I cannot tell. ~George E. Wilson




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#33 Dismuke

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Posted 04 September 2010 - 09:25 PM

What historic preservation ordinances try to do is regulate a kind of anarchy -- an absence of regulations for property use. And Dismukes would say that such anarchy must not be inhibited unless the individual owner approves.


I would never use the word "anarchy" to describe my position.

"Anarchy" is a situation when your neighbors have very loud parties all night long, shoot guns in the air and dump garbage in your yard - and the police and local officials refuse to respond to your pleas for help because they are too terrified for their lives to enter your neighborhood. It is where the only way you can get resolution is by taking matters into your own hands - which you are probably reluctant to do because there are more of them than you and the last person who tried to confront them ended up with bullets flying through his living room window.

Anarchy is the sort of situation that existed in certain parts of pre-Katrina New Orleans and in parts of other cities. That is the sort of situation that currently exists in Northern Mexico where the remaining honest police and government officials are too terrified to enforce the law because they know that their doing so will be an immediate death sentence upon themselves and their families. It is a situation where people who are victimized do not bother to contact the police or local government officials because they know that there is a decent chance that they are in cahoots with the criminals.

That is not what I advocate in any way or form. Anarchy is not synonymous with freedom - it is merely a chaotic, decentralized form of tyranny. Anarchy and tyranny are both situations where people are ruled by some form of "might makes right" and "ends justifies the means" expediency.

We need government in order to protect our rights and property from those who seek to inflict harm on us. We need a government that has the authority and resources to use its police powers to protect us from individuals who seek to impose their wishes, desires, opinions, values and demands on us by means of some form of physical force and who seek to steal from us by means of fraud (fraud being an indirect form of force).

The danger is when the government oversteps its proper authority. The danger is when the government's authority and police powers degenerate into a mere tool by which some individuals impose their wishes, desires, opinions, values and demands on everybody else - i.e., when the government itself becomes a tool for enabling the same sort of behavior it is supposed to protect us from. To the degree that this happens is the degree that the government has become a tyranny.

The way I would rephrase what you wrote to describe my position is this: I believe in individual liberty - and a individual's liberty may be inhibited ONLY to the degree that his behavior involves the initiation of some form of force or fraud against another person. I believe in "live and let live." But there are limits - my rights end where yours begin.

Now exactly what does and does not constitute a violation of a person's rights in a given situation is not always obvious or clear cut. That is why we have a legal system and courts - and that is why determining such things is a science and field of study in its own right and requires a great deal of specialized knowledge. On the other hand, the fundamental, underlying principles that our political and legal system rest upon is a subject that ordinary citizens can and should concern themselves with.

Generally speaking, the only obligation that a person's rights impose on another person is in the form of a negative. Your rights impose an obligation on others to refrain from subjecting you and your property to physical harm. Your rights impose an obligation on others to refrain from stealing your property by means of fraud. Other than that, if you wish to acquire goods, services or values from other people, you need to do so by strictly voluntary means.

For example, your right to own a nice house consists of your right to keep the money that you earn (or is gifted to you or that someone has chosen to loan you) and use it to buy the best house you can find that someone else is willing to either sell you or build for you. But your right to own a nice house does not impose an obligation on any other person to provide you with such a house if you cannot afford one or if the amenities you desire are out of your price range. And your right to own a nice house does not impose an obligation on your neighbors to obey whatever random demands you happen to bark out on grounds that their compliance is necessary in order for you to regard your house as "nice."

To apply this to the topic at hand - whenever you have a situation where there are a large number of property owners crowded into a relatively small geographical area, it is necessary for their to be certain restrictions on people's behavior and what they may and may not do on or with their property. And it is the proper function of the appropriate level of government to enforce those restrictions when necessary. But the standard by which those restrictions are determined has to be the individual rights of all parties involved. It must not be based on people's subjective whims, wishes, desires or beliefs - otherwise, what you have is a tyranny.

If my neighbor decided to use his extra bedroom or garage to store industrial quantities of highly flammable and explosive materials that could blow up half the neighborhood, the local government can and must put an immediate end to such a situation. If would be a different matter if it were an industrial district or rural area and every adult inhabitant of his house was aware of and willing to live with such a risk. But my neighbor does NOT have the right to subject the lives and property of unwilling and unknowing others to such danger.

But if I happen to disagree with my neighbor's tastes in architecture - does that somehow constitute a violation of my rights? I might be able to write a scholarly treatise making it crystal clear to any objective and knowledgeable person why my architectural tastes are superior and his are trash - and that would be utterly irrelevant to the fundamental issue. He has the exact same right to his trashy tastes as I do my superior tastes.

Again, I admit that where the line is to be drawn is not always clear cut. If your neighbor allows his house to sit empty, to rot and fall down, does that violate the rights of his neighbors? I think a certain case could be made for that in an urban setting. On the other hand, what if the neighbors keep their house physically maintained but their yard, their windows, the clutter on their porch and their own personal appearance is utterly scruffy and the entire family and their nearby relatives spend a great deal of time hanging around in the front yard treating the entire neighborhood to a scene reminiscent of something from The Beverly Hillbillies? One could argue that such a scene is just as trashy looking as a falling down house. You and I might find the sight to be offensive - but, then again, some people find the nearby existence of people of different races and of different sexual orientations to be offensive.

Fort Worth has a law where property owners are required to remove gang graffiti that has been sprayed on their property. I am VERY sympathetic to that law and its intentions. But what if the property owner regards the graffiti as a work of "art" and a "free expression" of a unique "culture" that is allegedly being suppressed by a judgmental, narrow minded and bigoted society - something that will be as much of a "cultural treasure" in future generations as Native America cave art is for us today? What if he likes it and asked the gang members to paint it on his fence or house?

Again, this is not an issue at all for newer subdevelopments where such restrictions and a means to modify them in the future has been put in place before everybody bought into a neighborhood. It is not as much of an issue for people who move into a neighborhood with restrictions already in place - unless people start trying to tighten those restrictions. But can be a huge issue for neighborhoods that have historically not been subject to such restrictions and are in a period of transition due to changing demographics or declining/increasing property values - and that is the situation that historical neighborhoods typically find themselves in.

Drive around various middle class neighborhoods and you will observe that, for the most part, the visual characteristics of the neighborhoods generally do NOT change very much until outside forces either cause property values to significantly fall or increase - especially if the increase makes the land far more valuable than the houses themselves. When such transitions take place, existing property owners have a LOT at stake - and since a house is, for most people, their largest or only asset, that is something that cannot properly be taken lightly or subordinated to mere desires, opinions and wishes.



With such a view, zoning changes are illegal unless approved by all the owners.



I don't have the relevant specialized knowledge to comment on the actual legality of zoning. Such laws have clearly been upheld by the courts - whether they have been so legitimately is not something I am qualified to offer opinions on.

In some instances I do regard certain specific restrictions that various zoning laws are used to impose to be valid and I regard many others as certainly being desirable. I just don't consider zoning to be a proper means of bringing such restrictions about. Many of the specific ends that people seek to achieve through zoning are valid enough - but the ends do not justify the means.

Now, if you rephrase your statement above to: "with such a view, restrictions on private property are illegal unless approved by all the owners" I would say that is absolutely NOT the case. If that were the case, why would there even be a need for a government in the first place? I do not need my neighbor's approval to demand that local authorities prevent him from storing explosives dangerously close to my property or from playing his music so loud I can hear it inside my house.

Again, it is a profound error to equate freedom with anarchy. Certain so-called "libertarian" types to the contrary notwithstanding, anarchy and freedom are NOT compatible - they are polar opposites because anarchy is nothing more than a chaotic tyranny of various thugs fighting to fill a power vacuum.

Anytime you bring a large number of random strangers together, conflicts and disputes will arise among them - and it is one of the proper functions of government to mediate such disputes in a manner that respects the rights of all involved. If someone commits an act of force or fraud against you, you do NOT have the right to take matters into your own hands (unless it is a matter of self-defense) - it is the government's job to do that on your behalf. If you have a disagreement with somebody you do NOT have the right to resort to fists and guns - you take them to court and it is the government's job to enforce the final determination of that process. And if a person does not like or approve of that process and wishes to write and enforce his own laws - well, one of the reasons we have a government is to protect us from such people.

The fundamental issue of our time and of this discussion is NOT whether the government has authority to forbid and limit certain behaviors. The issue is: are there limits on the government's proper authority? Or does the government have unlimited authority with politicians and officials being able to control any or all aspects of our lives as they see fit according to the political fashions and expediency of the moment? And, if there are such limits, how are they to be determined?

My answer is that is, YES, the government's proper authority must be limited - otherwise, what you have is tyranny. And those limits are properly based on what is necessary for the government to fulfill its role as the guarantor and protector of our individual rights and not a single thing beyond that.

There are a great many causes, goals and values in this world worth promoting and fighting for. I enjoy occasionally going to ballet and opera performances. But whether or not the ballet and opera is adequately funded has no business being a political issue. I love historic buildings. Older architectural styles is a subject that I am VERY passionate about. Where I part company with many preservationist types who share my passion is I don't think it is proper for the subject to be a political issue (unless we are talking about buildings legitimately owned by the government).


The Fort Worth city limits, likewise, cannot expand to incorporate areas without approval of every property owner whose land is affected.



I don't know enough about the details of what is involved in annexation issues and the process involved to comment much on that.

I certainly do not approve of situations I have read about of city governments suddenly coming into rural, previously unincorporated areas and begin bossing everybody around, treating them like unwashed bumpkins and subjecting them to taxes for services they neither need, nor want nor have asked for. But it is perhaps possible for such concerns to be addressed by means of grandfathering.

On the other hand, I also do not approve of cases where rural property owners try to use governmental coercion in order to kill off the natural, normal expansion of the city. If I own property in an unincorporated area outside Fort Worth near Aledo and such, and my neighbors wish to sell their property to developers who plan to subdivide their former farms and ranches, I have no right to stop them. The mere fact that I value the area's traditional rural character and wish to see it preserved does NOT impose an obligation on any other person. I have no more right to a "rural atmosphere" than a person in the suburbs who wishes to run off gays and minorities has a right to a "traditional values" atmosphere. Change is normal and constant - your particular dislike or my particular dislike for it does not, in and of itself, impose obligations on other people.

Dismukes does not believe in majority rule. He believes that everyone must approve or the law is a violation of the individual's rights. Yes?


No, not at all. A rapist or child molester probably does not approve of the fact that his behavior is outlawed - but so what? Such a law is NOT a violation of his rights. To the contrary, he is the person who violates people's rights. Nobody has a right to violate the rights of another. A person who knowingly violates the rights of another is, by his very behavior, making it clear that he does NOT respect the rights of other people. On what basis can one claim to have rights for himself that he does not respect when it comes to other people? Our entire criminal justice system is based on the premise that, if you violate somebody else's rights, you forfeit your own - and the purpose of the criminal justice system is to ensure that any such forfeiture is carried out impartially by means of rule of law, objective evidence and due process.

As for majority rule, of course I do not believe in majority rule. A lynch mob is an example of majority rule in action. I seriously doubt that anybody here would support a lynch mob or the mentality behind such a mob. Majority rule is a form of tyranny - it is the tyranny of the majority rather than the tyranny of an elite or a single dictator. I don't support tyranny in any form.

If I recall correctly, it was you, Fire Eater, who pointed out earlier in the thread, that we do not live in a democracy but rather a republic. I might add to that the fact we live in a constitutional republic. That means a government that is bound by a constitution that places strict limits on the authority of our elected representatives and other government officials.

Within the context of constitutionally limited government, certain issues such as exactly who will serve as our elected representatives or who will fill certain public offices are most fairly determined by means of majority vote. In any election, there will always be those who end up on the losing side. But that is NOT a problem when one has constitutionally limited government because the power your political opponents have just acquired is strictly limited and prevents them from using it in ways that will harm you.

Of course, we have come a long way from that. Today, if you end up on the short end of an election, you might wake up one day to find that the very industry you count on for your livelihood has either been outlawed or regulated out of existence. We have degenerated to the point that we are well down the road to the tyranny of the majority. But this is not an indictment of the majority vote to determine elections or of a constitutional republic as a form of government. What has happened is the limits on the authority of our elected representatives has gone out the window in very dangerous and frightening ways.

The purpose of a constitutional republic is to limit the government's authority to its proper function of protecting individual rights and to prevent the majority from using the vast power of the government as a means of abusing or denying the rights of the minority. People tend to think of "minorities" in terms of groups - blacks, Chinese-Americans, gays, to name just three minorities whose rights have been trampled on in the past in the name of the majority. But the smallest, most vulnerable and most defenseless minority of all is the lone individual.

Your life is unique, special, irreplaceable and unrepeatable. The things you acquire in this life - your house, your car, your bank account, your investments - are all the result of the investment of your hard work taking up many, many irreplaceable hours of your limited time and patiently enduring all sorts of obnoxious behavior on the part of your customers, employers, etc. By what right can any other human being come along and just demand that you sacrifice any or all of it for some allegedly "higher purpose" based on nothing more than that other person's wishes, desires, opinions or values? By what right can any group of such people come along and make similar demands?

But the same applies in your dealings with any other person - they, too, are unique individuals and have the same rights as you.

That is the prism that civilized people view things through when it comes to acquiring the things they seek in life. And that is the only proper prism to view things through when it comes to getting people to go along with what we seek out in terms preserving our history.

The things we value in this world are not equal - some things are more important than others. I value historic buildings - but I value my freedom more. There is nothing more profoundly personal than the issue of how you may or may not live your life and towards what end. Freedom is not something you can take or leave according to the pragmatic expediency of the moment. The same authority you seek in order to impose your opinions and wishes on other people is the same authority that some other group might come along someday and use to impose their opinions and wishes on YOU.

As important as things like history and aesthetic beauty are, there are things in that are far more important. The subway stations in Moscow and Pyonyang, North Korea are breathtakingly beautiful - while the ones here in the USA tend to be rather dowdy. But the subway systems in Moscow and Pyongyang were built with the blood of slave labor - and knowledge of that fact makes ours suddenly seem a whole less dowdy. In sum - the ends do not justify the means.
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#34 SWRebel

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Posted 04 September 2010 - 11:53 PM

I will try my best to approach these on an individual basis:

I had always thought that the Mistletoe Heights overlay was achieved by a majority vote.

There are a number of rental units in this neighborhood complete with absentee landlords. I would invite you check how the abstentions were tabulated.

I'm curious, since you obviously objected to this overlay, as to how it specifically negatively impacted you?

I did not want to move but,
they changed the rules of the game, so I took myself out.

I'd hate for him to buy a house down here and want to do a bunch of crap to it.

Your neighborhood is safe from me. :)
Quite remote non-existant are the chances that I would ever move back that neighborhood.
(never say never)

Jefferson quote you use in your signature

My attempt at paraphrasing failed miserably.
I cut my teeth on 300 baud modem, I am still concerned about bandwidth.....

Oh by the way, I love my 60+ year old Mistletoe Heights house and don't mind the overlay.

Some folks like it.
some folks hate it.
Some folks don't mind it.
Some folks move.

It's a bit simplistic, and I'm not sure what it has to do with historic zoning.

Nor do I.

But where the overlays ARE a problem from a property rights perspective is when they are imposed on owners who bought in BEFORE there was an overlay. I am not going to go into a lot of detail as to the various reasons that property owners might object because the details really don't matter.

You spang on right,on soooo many points.

If you cannot at least UNDERSTAND why such people might object and be concerned about such things, I don't know that there is anything I can say that will convince you. If you cannot UNDERSTAND why a person would be concerned about his existing rights in a piece of property being suddenly limited, that pretty much indicates you are operating on the premise of: "other people ought to be forced to conform to my wishes and desires - and if they don't agree they just need to shut up and obey."


"To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, ‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, & the fruits acquired by it.'"




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