Hogg must Blog

I’m seriously considering firing this thing back up after a three year hiatus.

Lately, as I move through life, I find that I miss having the voice I developed here for so many years and find that I have things to say that ought not be kept to myself, lest I bust out in hives.

I’m not making any real commitments, because my life is too full of things that must be honored.  But I’m going to try to get back in the old habit.  We’ll see how it goes.

My first step was remembering my login info.  Check.  Next I’m going have to remember how to hyperlink and upload photos and such.

Posted in Blogging and Blogs, Life in General | Comments closed

Cleared

Update: The N&R reported the dropping of Emmett Morphis’ charges. Reporter Jennifer Fernandez placed the body of the article in the comments below. Thanks, N&R, you did good.
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Back when I was blogging regularly, I would read the paper and post my take on whatever interested me.  In February of 2008, two articles in the N&R caught my eye because they were both about the Morphis brothers, recently of Fincastles Restaurant fame.

It mentioned Emmett Morphis, whom I’ve known for sometime, because he had been accused by a former associate of embezzlement.

Turns out it is true that you can sue anyone for anything and the paper will cover it; if you get cleared of the charge – the paper of record doesn’t usually mention it.

I received a note from Emmett’s wife Lee on Monday saying that their ordeal is over and his name has been cleared.  An excerpt…

“As most of you know, my husband Emmett has gone through a lengthy and public business disagreement with a former business associate. We are happy to say that it is over and Emmett’s name has been cleared. It has been 7 years since his x-partner came at Emmett with a civil suit….

…Anyway, long story short, and several articles in the newspaper, the case was finally released due to lack of evidence. (Because there is none.)

…Finally, it is over. This has been a tough 7 years for us. We appreciate all the support and friendship.”

Good. Now I’m waiting to read about it in the paper

Posted in Life in General | Comments closed

Aycock vs Aycock

A fight is brewing.

Back when the Aycock Historic District was formed in 1983, (then) Aycock Middle School principal Jim Long advocated for the inclusion of the historic campus into the boundaries of the district that was ultimately named for the school, which is such a prominent feature of the neighborhood.  He understood the protections that “historic” status would afford the 1922 structure.ams-facade

As a result, Aycock Middle is the only Guilford County School (GCS) that falls under the jurisdiction of the historic district guidelines as administered by Greensboro’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Since Jim Long’s departure in the late ’80′s from his long-time leadership, the neighborhood and school have had their share of tiffs revolving around GCS’s on-again/off-again willingness to spend the money and design effort it sometimes takes to execute property improvements with adherence to the Guidelines.

In the past couple of years, however, the neighborhood has enjoyed good relationships and communications with the school under the excellent leadership of principal Valerie Atkins.  This is probably due, in no small part, to the fact that the neighborhood has recently invested tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time in improving the campus.

Two years ago, with mostly its own money, the Aycock Neighborhood designed, purchased and installed new fencing around the entire campus to replace the historically inappropriate chain-link fence that had detracted from the campus for 30 years.  In that same year, after obtaining a Neighborwoods Grant from Greensboro Beautiful, our ‘hood oversaw the placement and planting of over 100 new trees on the campus.  We ‘Aycockians’ have long regarded the appearance of the Aycock buildings and campus as a point of pride.  Neighbors regularly pick up blown trash from the lawns of the school as a matter of habit, just as if it were in their own front yards.

Due to great efforts on the part of Principal Atkins and her wonderful staff, Aycock has lately become an academic bright spot among the county’s middle schools.  As other middle schools have become “low performing”, thus freeing their “district” students to seek out schools that actually educate kids, Aycock’s student body swelled by nearly 100 this year.  However, there is not enough room for the newcomers in the old school’s “brick and mortar” classrooms.

GCS’s standard solution to such abrupt overcrowding is to wheel in “modular classrooms”, a.k.a. trailers.  Problem is, there is no such thing as an historically appropriate “modular classroom”.

Following proper procedure for historic district properties, GCS has applied for a ams-bad-light“Certificate of Appropriateness” to place three trailers on Aycock’s campus.  (applicatioams-good-lightn here).  But the opening photos provided in support of placing trailers in a historic district, where they should never even be considered, GCS’s application attempts to appease the guidelines by proposing a “possible alternate light fixture” instead of the standard issue fixture.

This “lipstick on a pig” gesture makes me think, perhaps, that GCS has no clue what they are up against.

The matter will be coming before the Historic District Commission this Wednesday.  Meantime, the Aycock Neighborhood – who is no stranger to what needs to be done when threatening controversies arise – has been alerted and is mobilizing its considerable forces.

Speaking for myself only (I am on the Aycock Board of Directors), I see room for compromise.ams-trailers1

The neighborhood is happy for the school’s success and applauds the reasons behind the abrupt need for expansion and wants what is best for our prominent neighbor.  However, I can’t see any way that trailers – even ones with ‘historic’ light fixtures -  can possibly be deemed “congruous” with the letter, much less the intent, of the Historic District Design Guidelines.

Allowing such a structure would be akin to me buying a shipping container and parking it my driveway for an indeterminate period of time with my only justification being that all of my children (and their stuff) decided to move back home.  Wouldn’t happen for me, shouldn’t happen for GCS.

But still, I say bring the trailers on to solve the needs for the school, but with this caveat: the historically inappropriate trailers should be allowed to remain only as temporary structures.

I believe the neighborhood could support (and such matters are usually swayed largely towards what the neighborhood supports) a plan to install trailers for a strictly defined period of time.  Say… two years.  But  such support would only be extended if/when there is a FULLY FUNDED PLAN to add permanent, appropriately designed, classrooms to the campus.

To accomplish this, the School Board will have to get involved pretty quickly and act definitively in order to appropriate the funds for actual ‘brick and mortar’ within the next couple of budget cycles.  All of this is suggested with full knowledge that the average “temporary classroom” in Guilford County is anything but, and that money is in very short supply.

But, in the case of Aycock School, Guilford County Schools has the opportunity to accomplish the right thing by one of Greensboro’s architectural treasures, or accomplish nothing but alienating its neighbors.

Posted in Aycock Neighborhood, Guilford County Schools, Preservation | Comments closed

RRP Compliance: the costs of an unenforced law

Update: WXII TV’s Bill O’Neil follows up on the issue.  One quibble, Bill:  We are a specialized window “restoration” company.  We restore, repair and weatherize existing windows.  Window “replacement” companies are a dime a dozen and worth every penny.

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Looking out the window of my 1908 house I can see three of my neighbors’ houses receiving a new exterior paint job.  All of them are being undertaken illegally by the companies hired to do the work.

Nearly six months after North Carolina implemented the EPA’s “Repair, Renovate and Paint Rule” (aka RRP), which subjects ALL companies who undertake paint-disturbing work on pre-1978 dwellings* to fines of $750.00 per day, per occurrence, only a small fraction of N.C.’s firms are certified by the state (list here).

Normally I could give a crap about that; but, because my company is in full compliance with the draconian and expensive-to-deploy regulations,  we stand to lose a ton of business unless my competition is forced onto a level playing field.

Problem is, there is zero enforcement of the new law.  No agency is in the field holding every company’s feet equally to the fire that the fine folks at the EPA stoked to protect us from ourselves.  (Note: According to the CDC, incidents of elevated lead levels in children has dropped precipitously over the last 10 years – without this onerous and expensive Rule.)

So here we stand – certified, trained and fully invested in the material and equipment required by these unnecessary rules that have caused us to raise our prices by at least 15% – watching companies undertake work blissfully ignorant that the RRP Rule even exists,  with no fear of consequence.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, implementation of this rule couldn’t couldn’t come at a worse time.  With the depressed state of construction industry, the last thing the government should be doing is implementing ANY regulations that cause prices to rise so precipitously.  But the Rules are here – and my company tried to do the right thing by coming under compliance months ago.

All I have received for following the rules so far is lost business, and more to come.

Posted in Double Hung, Preservation | Comments closed

Sitting in the Council’s chairs

Last night, members of The Spirit of the Sit-In Movement Initiative temporarily occupied the dais (as in – they ‘sat in‘ the Council’s chairs.  Get it?) during a break of the City Council meeting.  Some were subsequently arrested for trespassing.

Yesterday, I received a wide distribution email from Rev. Nelson Johnson of the Beloved Community Center.  As I read the release, I thought it curious that it encouraged people – twice - to stick around for “the second half” of the meeting:

“…TONIGHT…the SSIMI will make another presentation to the City Council of Greensboro, and continue to make an (sic) address some of the deep issues race and social justice.  Ulitmately (sic)the group is speaking to the citizens of Greensboro, and are seeking build community around these various issues.  People are encouraged to participate in the (sic) tonight’s discussion in City Council Chambers at 5:30 PM.  The group is very hopeful in receiving a response from the council as a result of their presentation.  Therefore, people are further encouraged to remain at the meeting until the second part of the agenda.

Please make a special effort to come (and encourage others to come). Also please stay until the second half of the meeting occurs as we are hopeful of a postive (sic) response from the Council.  Thank you so very much.”

Now I understand why people were twice asked to stick around.  What good is a protest without a proper audience?

Posted in Greensboro Politics | Comments closed

WMS – Next steps

The N&R covers the latest happenings surrounding War Memorial Stadium.

I appealed to the Historic Preservation Commission last week to start the process of folding the stadium property into the boundaries of the Aycock Historic District.  The presentation sparked enough interest for the issue to be placed on the agenda for next month’s meeting of the group.  If that ball starts rolling, it will take a minimum of six months for the designation to go into effect.  This zoning change would give the stadium protections that it doesn’t currently enjoy.

Preservation Greensboro’s Director Benjamin Briggs is quoted in the article regarding the possibility of utilizing historic tax credits. (an idea that has been talked about for years, but never actually pursued)  He is in contact with the National Trust and others who can make this happen.  A portion of an email conversation from one of the CPA’s looking at the deal last week indicates that such an arrangement is possible and doable but will require quite a bit of money and legwork and, on the part of the City and public, patience…

” . . . I think the first step is to figure out who is going to be the developer.  The City, PGI, local investor group?  Number two, a viable business plan needs to be developed.  Three, if there needs to be a major fund raising effort (in excess of $1,000,000), that needs to be scoped out (feasibility).   Then we can worry about tax credits.  It’s the easy part.”

Seems that this process should have been started by the City some years ago, but absent that, it is best to get started now with or without them.

I am confident that there are a least 5 votes on the City Council to stop the wrecking ball from tearing down the old place while ALL of the options and possibilities are actually explored and not just talked about.  There has been another Task Force meeting called to present the decision by the P&R decision to move forward with the demolition of the place.  I’ll take a pass on that meeting.

I really don’t have time for this, and I’m afraid that the general public is fatigued about the whole issue of “Save War Memorial”.  But, we have to at least try.

Posted in Preservation, War Memorial Stadium | Comments closed

Demolition by neglect

In 1999, the City of Greensboro adopted an “Ordinance to Prevent Demolition by Neglect”.  Found under Chapter 30, Article IV, 30-4-4.2, the ordinance was adopted to protect historic properties from ‘demolition by neglect’ on the part of uncaring or unresponsive owners.  The ordinance says:

….any building or structure, (e)ither designated as an Historic Landmark or found to have significance located within the Historic Overlay District shall be preserved by the owner or such other person who may have legal possession, custody, and control thereof against decay and deterioration and kept free from structural defects…”

The clear intent and directive of the ordinance is to preserve and protect Greensboro’s historic architecture.  Once a neglected property is identified, the ordinance authorizes the City to undertake sufficient repairs to stabilize the building in order to prevent its ‘demolition by neglect’ and bill such repairs to the owner.  If unpaid, the City is authorized to attach a lien on the property for the repairs.

If any property in Greensboro ever clearly suffered ‘demolition by neglect’ by its owners, it would be the City’s own War Memorial Stadium.

Although on the National Registry of Historic Places, WMS lies just outside the boundary of the Aycock Historic District overlay and has never been officially adopted as a county ‘Historic Landmark’. And so, due to reticence on the part of the City to become neither, WMS has never been subject to the protections afforded to structures whose property lines abut that of the Stadium.  Chief among those protections is the ‘Demolition by Neglect’ ordinance

It is indefensible for the City to impose the provisions found in the Historic District Guidelines – which have undeniably stabilized, protected and improved the architecture of hundreds of Greensboro structures (including Aycock Middle School) – on others and not agree to live under its own laws for its own historic properties.

I am going to suggest during the next meeting of Greensboro’s Historic Preservation Commission that War Memorial Stadium be included in the Aycock Historic District and become officially designated as a Historic Landmark.

What’s good for the goose should be well suited for the gander.

Posted in War Memorial Stadium | Comments closed

WMS and that ‘vision thing’

Update: Here’s a 2008 video report from WXII.  Nothing much has changed since then.

Indications are that Tuesday night’s City Council meeting might be interesting in regard to the Staff and P&R Commission’s recommendation of spending $1.3M to demolish War Memorial Stadium.  Some on Council might be concerned about their legacy.  The prospect of having their names embossed on the obligatory bronze plaque that would be attached to whatever the finished project ultimately looks like is a pretty hefty thing to bear. 

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The question: Will that plaque name those who oversaw the destruction of Greensboro’s history or commemorate the decision to preserve the structure for generations to come?  We’ll know more soon.

Meanwhile, the renderings here are more like where we should be headed…

Scheme 5 – Estimated to run $3.8M – seeks to expand the Farmer’s Market across Yanceyville Street and create a new “City Market” within the confines of the old stadium footprint.

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With covered individual seating (which would be salvaged from the Coliseum) for 1500, this plan includes accomodations for multiple useages: An outdoor amphitheatre, team locker rooms, public restrooms, concessions, a catering kitchen, the City Market, and – not to forget – a pretty damn fine baseball field.  Many of the activities could occur concurrently.

My argument has been all along that it is an imperitive for the stadium be re-configured to attract the largest possible crowds.  I’d estimate that since minor league baseball left WMS five years ago, less than 1% of Greensboro’s citizens have had any reason to enter the stadium and, so, probably don’t give a hoot about what happens to it or what it looks like.

And to that, I can think of no one better to fill the place up and utililize it to the fullest than Coliseum manager Matt Brown.  I’d even go as far as to suggest that, since it is a War Memorial, that the old stadium be removed from the authority of the Parks & Rec commission/department and handed over to the War Memorial Commission and the Coliseum staff.

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Everyone realizes that we don’t have all of the money right now to do the place justice, but we do have the money to get started.  Here’s what I suggest we do with the $1.3M we currently have in hand. (Estimates are from the architect in charge)

Renovate the grand entrance (est. $275k):  Everyone agrees that this feature should remain.  Fix it.

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Create the “Plaza” connector to the Farmer’s Market (est. $150k): Making the approach to the stadium more inviting will spark interest and give it some dignity.

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Demolish the structure down third base and create terraced open space (est. $120k): Nearly everyone agrees that this part of the structure is superfluous, deteriorated beyond repair and  needs to go.  Get it gone.

Then stop right there and spend the remaining $700k somewhere else. 

Despite N&R editorial suggestions to the contrary, the stadium is not in any danger of collapsing.  Sure, there is some loose concrete, but I’d imagine another $100k would repair that well enough for another 10 – 12 years of public use.  Baseball can still be played there and we could try the place out for small concerts in its current state.

There is currently $1.3M earmarked for the “renovation” of War Memorial Stadium – under Scheme 6, $550k of that amount is to go towards the complete and unnecessary demolition of the entire stadium bowl.  That is is simply wrongheaded.

Posted in Aycock Neighborhood, Greensboro Politics, Preservation, War Memorial Stadium | Comments closed

N&R: Naysayer

I have meticulously crafted an eloquent opposing opinion on this morning’s inaccuracy riddled N&R editorial.

Their position on the matter doesn’t simply support, but urges the demolition of War Memorial Stadium.  If I had more time this morning, I would further elucidate the inaccuracies.  But alas, duty calls.

I do realize that a lone voice railing against the rising tide is a pitiful thing to behold, but it suffices to say that seemingly lost causes are just my thing.

Posted in Greensboro Politics, Preservation, War Memorial Stadium | Comments closed

“Renovation” my ass

The only thing more misleading than the online headline: “New renovation plan proposed for War Memorial Stadium” is the opening line of the article that appears in today’s N&R: “The city’s War Memorial Stadium might soon get a long-awaited facelift….”wms6-whats-left-sm

Characterizing the demolition of 99% of a structure as a “renovation” and a ” facelift” is akin to terming the practice of slavery as merely a civil rights violation.  

The  architectural rendering provided for Scheme 6 depicts the extent of the “facelift” that is currently on the table.  The four little black boxes you see will be all that is left following the stadium’s “renovation”.  All of the light blue - which is the stadium itself –  goes to the landfill.

The headline for the print edition of the article did a better job of  capturing the truth of the matter: “City plan would save historic stadium’s arch.”

Posted in Aycock Neighborhood, Greensboro Politics, War Memorial Stadium | Comments closed