VAA opponents are overreaching in citing historic preservation | Letter to the Editor
September 4, 2012 · Updated 1:24 PM
As a progressive Democrat, it is seldom that my sentiments are aligned with the Tea Party and property rights movements. Yet an attempt by community activists to invoke historic preservation principles to derail Vashon Alllied Arts’ performing arts project provides greater validation of Tea Party ideology than an hour of advertisements by American Crossroads or Club for Growth.
The Tea Party’s grassroots supporters are animated by anger over nonsensical government regulations and overbearing public scrutiny of private land-use decisions. Legitimate popular frustration over absurd regulations and bureaucratic overreaching has become co-opted into a corporatist movement to abolish the EPA and repeal the Growth Management Act. A prime example of such overreaching is the current effort to preserve the “historic” corner at Center.
As a private community organization using private funds to build a performance hall on private property, governmental scrutiny of VAA should be limited to ensuring that the structure is safe for public use and that the project does not pollute the natural environment. While the Supreme Court has recognized legitimate public interest in preserving historic buildings such as Grand Central Station, this power does not relegate every old building to historic status or freeze the status quo from responsible development.
The only thing “historic” about one of the buildings on that corner, the McFeeds property, is that it has been an eyesore for over 50 years. The fact that some community members disagree with VAA’s land-use decision does not entitle them to subvert the permitting process to impose their aesthetic sensibilities upon private parties in the name of historic preservation.
Vashon depends on environmental and growth regulation to preserve our way of life. These regulations are threatened by a Tea Party movement whose legitimacy rests in finding examples of absurd and oppressive governmental regulations. Opponents of VAA’s performing arts center should adopt a less short-sighted posture and save their efforts for more important battles.