This letter to the editor was submitted by Webster Groves Councilman Ken Burns.
As briefly as I can, I am responding to these two current members' recent comments on Webster Groves Patch. First, any and all comments herein are my own, and though I am a member of the Webster Groves City Council the views expressed here are not in any way intended to represent the views of any other council members. Also, I am an practicing architect as well a a member of the city council.
In one comment a current ARB member claims that during a phone conversation, I said that "there should not be an ARB at all in Webster Groves." I never made such a statement. There is an inference this phone conversation might be the source of Mr. Mindlin's original and similar claim. If so, I think Mr. Mindlin might want to have exerted more effort to fact check before making public his letter.
This same current ARB member describes my action to have even contacted him when he was a candidate for a position on the ARB as unethical. That two architects, a city councilperson and the then candidate for the ARB, discussed thoughts about the ARB's role in service to the community prior to an appointment to the ARB is a good thing. Such a conversation is exceedingly ethical and is in my opinion, as a member of council, necessary and in service to the community.
As a footnote, by necessity there were actually two separate phone conversations that occurred between this member and myself. I will leave it in the hands of that current member to disclose why a second call was necessary. Another current ARB member writes "I (meaning me) want the ARB to operate in a tightly defined framework." As flattering as it is this member credits me having made this comment to which I wholeheartedly agree, I cannot take credit for the origin of such wisdom. It is that beautifully worded ordinance that gets full credit. This member states that the ARB succeeds most of the time. I concur.
If the spirit and letter of the ordinance is employed constantly and consistently, the success rated will approach 100 percent. This member implies the ARB members are deserving of some sort extra credit being volunteers. I do not agree that they deserve any special consideration outside the purview of the ordinance, and I repeat from my prior commentary, the board needs to respect that the persons appearing before them are compelled to participate in this process. This same member raises the issue of so called "gray areas" the board deals with in their deliberations: I think the exisiting ARB ordinance is comprehensive to the point there are no gray areas.
Apparently the ARB is wanting their powers expanded. This was made evident at a recent post-meeting discussion. Based on current and past behaviors of this and other ARBs, I would be a careless elected official to award expanding such subjective and unregulatable powers to the ARB to be able to further impact our resident's rights related to their property, privacy and their purse and other design professionals ability to pursue their livelihood without undue intrusion by any unelected group of people, whether well intentioned or not.
The limitations the ordinance places upon the ARB actions rightfully protects our city, members of the ARB, and most importantly our residents, and I will continue to support these restraints. I suggest the ARB utilize their creative skills to find a way to act within the spirit and letter of the ordinance just as they must act within the constraints of zoning and building code requirements in their own personal practice of architecture.
I have never, and never will, object to an ARB member making a reasonable and non-binding suggestion related to a project brought before them. I also do not preclude the fair finding of non-approval by the board, but I remind the ARB in doing so the ordinance requires them to have met a finding of fact a project would constitute a serious detriment to surrounding persons and property, a rather severe finding and rare occurrence.
I am more than pleased to objectively discuss issues related to the ARB. But loose claims made by others as to what I have said, think, and/or believe, especially as we have had limited or no direct conversations on these topics, are self-defeating to current or former ARB members making such claims and need to stop. I can only hope this to be the final response letter related to current and past ARB members' published opinions concerning me.
I remind these members of the ARB there was an election in 2010 in which two architects sought a position on city council. The other architect was a then current ARB member and went on to become the chairperson the ARB. The fact the residents of Webster Groves selected me for the city council in this particular circumstance makes me very comfortable that my position truly reflects the opinions and desires of the fine people living in our city.