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 V.15 No.33 | August 17 - 23, 2006 

Council Watch

Slow Moving

After a Council ruling last Monday, the Horn Motor Lodge will be torn down, although the old Route 66-style gas station will remain.
Wes Naman
After a Council ruling last Monday, the Horn Motor Lodge will be torn down, although the old Route 66-style gas station will remain.

Simultaneously duller than a chalk butter knife yet utterly terrifying, last week’s City Council meeting--the first after the Council's monthlong hiatus--oozed paradox. This mad beast meandered on for seven hours, testing the collective resolve of those with short attention spans, but the topics of discussion were far from boring. Floods, gentrification, crime, police brutality, the slow erosion of Duke City history and housing developments turned into illegal speedways were all debated thoroughly. One public commenter claimed city workers conspired to steal 13 of his dogs. Irate homeowners waged a war of words with a shifty cell phone company rep over a telecommunications tower impeding their view. The police department unloaded old German Shepherds at bargain basement rates.

Opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
Landmark This

Richard Gonzales, owner of El Vado Motel/Auto Court, appealed the Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission’s recommendation that the Route 66-era building be declared a landmark. Mayor Martin Chavez applied for landmark status for the structure shortly after Gonzales purchased the building last year. It is the first time a property owner has opposed landmark status.
John Kelly, Gonzales' attorney, irked several Council members by saying the city had “taken” the property. He then spoke of the legal woes to come if the Council didn’t vote in his client’s favor. Kelly argued the city hadn’t given Gonzales a chance to rebut the commission's statement that the landmark status wouldn’t hurt the property value of the building. He added that this violated city ordinance, which says the Commission must give a landowner a chance to rebut its findings before declaring a building a landmark. Ultimately, the Council voted 5-4, denying the appeal. Gonzales says he has no plans to tear down the building. If it can be saved, it should be. Once an old building is demolished, the DNA sequence of chains and franchises will begin to replicate itself up and down the block. Personally, I’d rather see an abandoned and dilapidated old motel bursting at the seams with meth labs, drifters and all other unsavory types than another Panda Express.

On the other hand, I sure wouldn’t approve of any commission, council, board or otherwise telling me what to do with my antique motel. Burn it down and put up a smut shop.
Lord of the Ringtones

Far Northeast Heights homeowners appealed a 65-foot Cingular cell phone tower put up earlier this year which they say corrupts their view of the mountains, escarpments and other natural eye candy. According to the homeowners, the tower is supposed to be “architecturally integrated” and in another spot closer to the Smith's grocery store, several hundred feet away from their homes.
The Council listened patiently to the homeowners’ case. None of the councilors seemed particularly enraged. Then the Cingular rep stood up to present his company's case. He said Cingular is trying to be a good neighbor by trying to camouflage the current tower, but the homeowners said all Cingular did was paint the pole brown. The Cingular rep then added that the company will install a much uglier “full array” tower if anyone dares complain about the present one. This angered Councilor Brad Winter, who said, “That’s being a good neighbor?” It then surfaced when city staff was questioned by the Council that Cingular misrepresented itself on its application for the tower, applying for one location, then simply crossing it off and adding another spot much closer to the residents. The city planning office didn’t notice. The Council voted unanimously in favor of the residents. Applause. At first, I was playing a tiny violin for the homeowners. It seemed to me that everyone wants to yack, text and otherwise murder brain cells with cell phones, but put a cell tower near their homes and all hell breaks loose. But then the company rep stands up and delivers a well-polished speech on the inherent futility of meddling with the almighty Cingular Corporation. My sympathy was aroused. I wondered where giant companies find these slick “son of the devil” types. The guy dematerialized into the ether after hearing the unanimous verdict. When I heard that the company could basically lie on its application with virtual impunity, I felt the overwhelming urge to go pull down telecommunications towers with a hook tied to a rope. Fight the power.
Bulldozers to Get Kicks on Route 66

The Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) appealed a decision to let Infill Solutions tear down the Horn Motor Lodge on Central west of Downtown for a mixed-use development.
It became clear that the DNA doesn’t represent the side of Central on which the Horn Motor Lodge sits. That neighborhood belongs to Huning Castle across the street. DNA says it wants old Route 66 buildings preserved. A state historian spoke on their behalf, saying only a fraction of vintage buildings remain along the road. Infill Solutions says it is only tearing down the motel part of the building and will refurbish the old gas station. The councilors seemed to agree that it is important to retain old buildings whenever possible. Nevertheless, they denied the appeal unanimously. I know I previously stated I would rather see a crack motel than another chain restaurant, but I guess I was only half serious. The Horn Motel sounds like kind of a pit. And the cool old gas station, the most visible old-Route 66 part of the property, isn't being demolished. So I say tear the old motel down. Just don’t put a Starbucks there. Please, I beg of you. Well, maybe a Starbucks, but definitely not a McDonalds.
 
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