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Vashon Allied Arts has not engaged the community | Letter to the Editor
My name opens a recent letter to the editor about Vashon Allied Arts (“VAA has led the way in historic preservation,” Nov. 21), which prompts me to respond and state my position on the VAA project and the recent nomination to designate Center as a King County historic district. As the owner of The Old Fuller Store, my intention was to get it designated prior to my selling it. After discussing it with staff at the county’s Historic Preservation Program, I decided I would pursue designation only if Center were not designated, since there was no need to do so if it was part of a district. I began the process the day the nomination for Center was suspended.
My use of the word “disgusting,” as quoted by The Beachcomber, was specifically about VAA’s use of legal maneuvers to gut the county’s criteria for historic designation. Instead of engaging in a dialogue about the merits (or not) of making Center a historic district, VAA chose to use legal word parsing and intimidations to achieve its goals. I appreciate that VAA has responsibilities as a nonprofit, but I find it unpleasant that it once again chose tactics over community outreach.
The situation sums up my sense of how VAA has handled the process of its building project. VAA selected a beloved location to build what will be, if realized, the most prominent civic building constructed on Vashon. Islanders were bound to care. While there were many ways to vet ideas publicly, VAA decided to make key decisions about the project privately and then engage in an aggressive PR campaign. Perhaps VAA’s staff and board felt their best shot at getting the project realized was to bring it to the public late in the process, fearing it would get permanently tangled in opposing ideas otherwise. Maybe they were right. But I’m not sure the end justifies the means. More significantly, by truncating the messy process they omitted a key part in making the project great.
— Roy McMakin