September 7, 2010 | by Wendy Gordon
Photo by Wendy GordonIt all started with a simple request. Bullnose awnings. Should be a no-brainer, right? They’re elegant. They’re a much higher level in commercial adornment then your average awnings. THEY’RE AWNINGS. But here’s where it gets really interesting. At a Thursday meeting of the OGB, they became a symbol—a symbol, perhaps of leaders gone jjjuuussstt a little awry.
Take a walk down the streets and side streets of Georgetown, and you’ll find a good six to eight or more of these hanging on commercial property. “So what?” you say, “I hardly noticed.” Maybe not. But apparently neither did the ANC 2E, because just recently, the ANC passed a resolution to allow these on another commercial building. Still you feign indifference. But when the community speaks and its leaders can’t even uphold their own decisions and that of the people, perhaps we have a little problem.
Let us harken back to this past Monday. Yes…eons ago. It was still August—the 30th, to be exact, when the principals of the soon-to-open Serendipity 3, which is to be located in the space that formerly housed Nathan’s, appeared before the ANC 2E to gain approval for the awnings in question. As its former identity Nathan’s, the building in question sported the culprit, the dreaded bullnose awning, above their door. Under new restaurant ownership, and now as its new incarnation, Serendipity 3, that would be redone and matching awnings would be installed on the two (count ‘em) windows on the M Street side of the building, two doors on the Wisconsin Avenue side of the structure, and the recovering of the already existing awning over the main entrance to the building. Easy. No taking away from the venue’s historic architecture or significance. Simple awnings. Bullnose awnings. The same as many other businesses in the area. The plan was presented and the votes counted. No pushback from residents, and a unanimous vote to pass by the ANC 2E. Resolution passed. One more hurdle to go…the OGB.
Fast forward to Friday’s OGB meeting. Presentations were made. The awnings should have been a shoo-in. Historically, the OGB has usually approved projects with a resolution to go ahead attached. But it seems something was missing at this vote though…the resolution by the ANC. On top of that, an OGB member stated “We don’t allow bullnose awnings in Georgetown.” Tom Burch, who was the acting commissioner of the ANC at the time the original resolution had passed, concurred. Wait. Was there not a unanimous vote by the ANC to pass this resolution? Could the law have changed between Monday and Friday? Doubtful—but one has to wonder how the anti-bullnose sentiment could be legal on Monday, but not on Friday? And what of all those other buildings in the same area that have those awnings up as we speak? One has to wonder…does this ordinance apply only to instances arbitrarily selected by the OGB? One has to query…was a resolution not passed? Why was it not introduced at the OGB gathering?
These are bullnose awnings, Ladies and Gentlemen. In the grand scheme of things, bullnose awnings are insignificant. But there are larger issues here. How will difficulties like this, that seem to incessantly arise, effect new businesses and residences that may be considering Georgetown as a place to be; a place to which to pay taxes and offer other value? How will it be someday when residents can’t get cable or wireless because someone decides to throw power around and just say no to an antenna? How are these decisions made and in whose best interest are they? There are even more questions that could be asked here.
No one is suggesting or even wants to jeopardize the beautiful and charming architecture of Georgetown. No one has the desire to add to noise or traffic or question to the quality of life of the residents. But let’s think about minor tyrannies; needless power struggles and blatant disregard of the democratic process. I’m just sayin’……..