Letís all just take a deep breath here.
Youíre probably aware of the bit of controversy surrounding a cut-through in the boulevard on east Main Street, to make access for Acadian Lane which serves Fairfax House Historic Inn. Thereís been a growing push that "they" put the boulevard back the way it was.
Itís unclear who "they" are, but the public should be reminded that the proprietors of Fairfax House followed the letter of the law in requesting the turning access in the boulevard and permission was granted by the state Department of Transportation and Development, which has jurisdiction over that road. That jurisdictional authority is why the city canít go change the speed limit on Main Street, or put up a signal light, or anything else. Itís the stateís domain.
At issue is notification. At some point in the city channels the ball was dropped and almost everyone was taken by surprise. DOTD has indicated that if they had any clue there would have been opposition the permit would have at the very least been more closely considered. The city administration has suspended one employee without pay over the matter.
Under no circumstances should the proprietor of Fairfax House be held responsible for whatever errant paper trail culminated in the situation. He followed procedure, he went through the proper channels and assumed that all requirements had been met, including due notification. He has expressed regrets over the uproar and pledged his sympathy and commitment to historic preservation in Franklin. In short, he did what he was supposed to do and should be considered vindicated.
Understand, even though this is not a Franklin Historic District issue, it is doubtful that the city historic district ordinance has jurisdiction over the boulevard on state-owned Main Street anyway, and since the district ends at Clark Street, it certainly has no jurisdiction over that particular section in question.
In fact, if the state ever decided to do so, they could within all legal rights send the city a letter saying, "Weíre going to add a turning lane to Main Street. Where do you want us to stack your lampposts?"
A nightmarish scenario, to be sure, and while certainly unlikely, we have to own up to our limitations of authority over the boulevard. Iíve lauded and patted the backs of the civic committee that restored our lamps. We did not lose a lamp, we lost a section of the boulevard.
For the record, I do wish there had been an alternative to the cut-through that would have benefited both the city streetscape and the property owner. But only proper notification and due process would have revealed if such an option were out there, but again, the property owner did what was required of him, and believed all was in order. It was not his responsibility to send out a press release or something. That ball was dropped somewhere in proper channels.
It was not cut for a driveway. Acadian Lane is a street, and every other street from Martin Luther King Boulevard to the end of the boulevard on Main Street has a through-way. DOTD thought it was only natural that Acadian Lane should have one, too.
A community uprising that "they" restore the boulevard would rob the citizen involved of access to the lane, and who will compensate him for his expenses for the project, legally and properly permitted?
Ideally, the procedure would have gone like this: The applicant would have filed for a permit. The city would have been notified from top to bottom, and the administration would have sought legal opinion on Franklinís jurisdiction over the boulevard. If there were no legal recourse, they would have sought public comment and depending on the outcome of that comment either tried to convince DOTD not to allow the project, or filed no objection. Understand, the city would not have been under obligation to seek public comment, or even take a stance of any kind, but Iím sure the mayor and council would have sought it out of a sense of fairness.
Whoeverís to blame, itís not Fairfax House and itís not the citizens of Franklin. The captain has to take responsibility for his crew, and I think the mayor has owned up to that responsibility.
Itís heartening that the community is committed to historic preservation and to the character of our town. But to put that ahead of a resident and businessman who has played by rules which ran astray beyond the scope of his procedural obligations is unacceptable. There are property owners in this town who have brashly violated restrictions of many other kinds who arenít becoming the target of a revolution, perhaps because their violations are not on our famous boulevard or some other soft spot in our hearts?
Itís regrettable for all involved, at different but no less regrettable levels. But itís done, it was done legally, and we need to make sure the demands that "they" do something are being made of the proper parties. More to the point, we need to address the circumstances that led to the regret, not rally against the incorrect source.
The owner of Fairfax House has acquired and is in the process of restoring other historic properties in the downtown area. He has shown a deliberate desire for preservation and for being a contributing member of this community.
We welcome big blue box stores and fast-foot outlets and chain stores of all kind, which come in and rob this community of family businesses, employment and choices. They stick up prefab, ugly buildings and take all our money out of the city and parish and even the state.
Yet we gang up on a person who has chosen to make his home here, enhance his properties and the downtown area.
We could certainly be more civil in our objections. I am awful ashamed of us right now.