Source: Sherman Publications

Commissioner’s ‘tone’ strikes resident as elitist

by Trevor Keiser

March 16, 2011

Historic District Commissioner Kay Robertson stands behind the commission's decision last year to oppose renovation efforts to 164 N. Main by owners Jim and Debbie Cousens.

“I’m sorry, I love this town. The village and the historical area look beautiful, but I’d like it to stay that way and I’m talking about the whole image,” Robertson said at a March 8 commission meeting. “It’s still obvious you don’t belong.”

That comment contributed to a “tone” of the meeting resident Steve Wylie found “disturbing.”

“I heard a little hint of something, a little vague impression that a citizen with a longstanding citizenship in Clarkston has more rights then somebody who’s moved in,” Wylie said. “I heard that tone and I do not like it, I do not appreciate it and as a citizen I don’t want to hear that at anymore public meetings. Every citizen has equal rights in this village.”

Last October, the Cousens successfully appealed the commission's rejection of a permit to tear down and rebuild a barn-like garage on the property to the state. Both the State Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules, and State Historic Preservation Review Board ruled in their favor.

The March 8 meeting was an “informal discussion” with the Cousens to “figure out the loose ends that still exist,” said Cara Catallo, interim chair.

The property owners never applied for a Certificate of Approval, required for reconstruction in the Clarkston Historic

District, Robertson said.

“I have sat on this commission for many years. We have worked with many, many people and to my knowledge nobody has gone ahead and done anything without a Certificate of Approval,” she said.

Commission member David Bihl said they should start fresh, with the Cousens submitted new applications.

“Is there a need to go down and sort facts? If we do that, we’re going to end up arguing a lot,” he said. “If it has to happen let it happen, but I can’t figure out a reason why we would act as the determiners of truth of the history of this problem we have before us. I would like to get to problem solving as soon as we can.”

Clarkston's building director and city manager issued permits to build the barn, but there was no official approval given by the commission, which regulates the Historic District, Bihl said.

The commission asked Cousens to reapply and will discuss the application at its next meeting, April 12.

“Come back and see if we can problem solve and get it done,” Bihl said. “There is nobody sitting in the room that doesn’t want to get this done.”