Letter: City silences voices about what should be preservation decision

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 3, 2020

When Salisbury’s government fails to follow the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, we citizens are truly up the creek. Such was the case for anyone who wanted to attend a recent Historic Preservation Commission meeting. In-person attendance was required if people wished to have their voices heard.

Unfortunately, the HPC did not abide by the attendance limit of 10 persons at any indoor meeting. There were far more people there. It was risk your health and your life or be disenfranchised.

For the few who knew of the hearing and took the risk, they were rudely treated and repeatedly interrupted. The commission arbitrarily imposed restrictions not allowing comments on the appropriateness of the only location the Salisbury City Council will allow for “Fame,” the Old Lutheran Cemetery. The HPC either ignored or were unaware of the National Register’s guidelines for Moved Properties, ” … moved properties must have an orientation, setting and general environment that are comparable to those of the historic location and that are compatible with the property’s significance.”  A deteriorated, out-of-the-way, seldom-visited cemetery is a far cry from the busy downtown streetscape of the monument’s historic location. Many fear it would only be a matter of time before the monument is irrevocably destroyed.

National Register guidelines are available online.  I would suggest Bulletin 15, especially the sections on moved properties, commemorative properties and the explanation of historic integrity.

The City Council decided to move the monument by breaking open meeting laws. The HPC approved it without consideration of the appropriateness of the site, by ignoring national guidelines for our historic districts and their contributing elements and by putting the health of our citizens at risk.

It’s clear the city is doing everything it can to silence our voices about what should be a historic preservation decision, not a political one.

— Ann Brownlee