Sunday, October 13, 2013

More art criticism, please

Book-ending my "bony-butt ugly" post in which I'd applauded Council's decision to deny a Special Use Permit (SUP) to Stripes Convenience Stores on the grounds of municipally-inappropriate design, I'm reproducing and expanding my rebuttal to the GCDN op-ed titled "It's time to cut the art criticism". 

It's actually time to ramp it upGCDN argues that evaluating aesthetics is not an appropriate function for City Council by virtue of the facts that (a) Council is not qualified to do that in the first place, and (b) the issue is too subjective to be productively broached by Council anyway.  But this stance disavows the complexity of the issue and it also ignores the fact that property values are very sensitive to "the views" that they offer.
Um, yeah.  Add to this list arguably-unsophisticated retail designs that delete the use of building materials consistent with established local character and precedents. 

Screengrabbed from this source
Anyway, rather than me beating that horse to death, let me just reproduce my comments on GCDN's editorial, with visual and referential embellishments. 


By Heber's rationale, the same justification would apply if a fast food franchise applied for a permit to build a circus-themed drive-through next to the 1894 Opera House on Postoffice. Why not - it's a tax-paying business, isn't it? It's a commercial area, right? And obviously there are scores of people who do not find circus-themed fast food establishments to be unacceptably "ugly" because they patronize them with great enthusiasm. So what legitimate basis would there be for a construction permit denial in that scenario?
Made for each other??  Justified by sole virtue of projected individual tax revenues?  Really?!  Do you think this combination of development would bode well for further refinement of The Strand as having the type of distinct and irreplaceable character that draws crowds of money-spending visitors? 

You could argue that League City's Main Street isn't in the same league (pun intended) as The Strand, but if League City doesn't start acting to help cultivate a cohesive character for Main Street, it's never going to get there, either. 

Opera House photo from Wikipedia.  Microsoft clip art.
The flaw in [Heber's] logic should be obvious. If it's not, quit reading now, because the rest of what I have to say won't mean a darned thing to you.

League City has struggled for years to define a municipal identity for itself, and a lot of folks poke fun at their consistent track record of failure.

But then when Council takes a baby step toward actually doing something (rather than debating the issue to death and paying big taxpayer bucks for questionable consulting studies)... actually taking a concrete step toward constraining an identity, a lot of folks poke fun at them, including this newspaper.

They can't win, can they? I'm the first one to cry foul whenever Council screws up, but I don't think they can be faulted for drawing a line on the issue of municipal esthetics in an instance where they had every right to do that (in fact, that's their specific function).

They aren't exactly sure what it is that they're supposed to BE cultivating, but at least they realize that willy-nilly construction variances are NOT going to get us to where we need to be in terms of municipal cohesion.

For once, Council is sticking to their guns instead of obsessing about their guns. I'd encourage everyone to recognize progress when it manifests.


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