Developer Lashley lied at the hearings, saying he had no "action" on the property and was forced to develop it. In fact, the Cape Fear Serpentarium has been trying to buy it since it was owned by John Sutton (pers. comm. Dean Ripa, director, Cape Fear Serpentarium). The Serpentarium intended to restore it in full, its exterior unaltered. But while Mr. Ripa was negotiating with Sutton, Lashley got in the way and bought it first. Since then the Serpentarium has repeatedly asked Lashley to sell it to them with the promise of restoring the building in full, but Lashley would not consider any offers."It's not for sale, it's for lease," Lashley said. Lashley never had any intention of selling the property. His sign, now taken down, reads "lease" not sell. The blinded HPC never even noticed this fact.
Ripa says, "If I had bought the building, I could have saved it. By permitting Lashley, the HPC has made this hope impossible."
AND THE AWARD GOES TO . . . .
When Don Lashley put before the city his plan to obliterate the Historic Iron Works building beneath a four level condominium complex, he told the Historic Preservation Commission if they did not give him the permit, he would have the building condemned. Then he could legally tear it down or build whatever he wanted there (Star-News 2 - 9 - 2006).
Duh-uh . . . isn't this a form of blackmail? And didn't the HPC cave into blackmail when they then gave him the permit? They did.
Maybe it's just us, but we think blackmailers are bad people. We think anybody that would stoop to this level is a CREEP and we guess you do too. That's why we have decided to give Lashley this year's AWARD OF SHAME to recognize his achievement. You see, we think it is Lashley who should be condemned, not his building. You can view Lashley's award on the newly erected WALL OF SHAME at the Cape Fear Serpentarium, 20 Orange Street, downtown Wilmington.
Mr. Lashley was real smart when he started developing downtown. First thing, he greased all the wheels. He got himself appointed to the Historic Preservation Commission where he began to make all the old friends who would later help him put this con job over. You would think a former Historic Preservation Commissioner would know better than to destroy a historic building - but that's exactly why Lashley joined. So that he could learn ways to get around the system. It was a good scheme.
One of the things he learned while on the HPC was that the HPC had almost no power. While capable of harassing a homeowner over the color of their awning or shutters, they were completely incapable of saving a single old building. Once a developer decided to tear a building down, all he had to do was ask for a CONDEMNATION order, and by law the building must be demolished after 365 days. It is for this reason that there are very few historic buildings left in downtown Wilmington, and why downtown Wilmington, once as grand as Charleston, now looks like a hobgob.
When developer Todd Taconis discovered this hole in the system, he promptly had the historic ICE HOUSE demolished - a building that dated back to 1830 (and the last antebellum Ice House in existence in the Nation). He did this with the connivance of a City Councilman, and now Mayor-pro-tem, Jim Quinn, who was paid $50,000 in real estate commissions for his involvement. Guess who selects the HPC members? The City Council . . . headed by Jim Quinn.
And so the HPC has just given ex-HPC member Lashley a permit to destroy one of Wilmington's most important historic structures, the Wilmington Iron Works building, dating to before the Civil War (Star-News 3 - 10 - 06). And over the top of it he will erect a garish, tasteless, and totally inappropriate art-deco style monstrosity, 50 feet tall, on a historic street (Orange Street) where not a single 50 foot tall structure has ever existed in all of history.
Lashley lied at two HPC hearings. He claimed he had no offers on his property, begging sympathy for his financial dilemma (Star-News 2 - 9 - 2006, and 3 - 10 -2006). FACT: Lashley has only owned the property for two years. FACT: Lashley has steadfastly refused to sell the property from the beginning. He would only lease it. FACT: Over a year ago the Cape Fear Serpentarium offered to buy the Iron Works Building from him at a fair price and preserve it intact (just as the Serpentarium has preserved the other Iron Works buildings on that site). But Lashley refused to sell to them or anyone. He had other goals than preservation. He wanted to live in a river front apartment. He wanted to make millions at the cost of local history.
While on the HPC, Lashley learned the ropes on how to evade the law. We think Lashley has formed a bond with certain HPC members who were suspiciously eager to help him at the February 9 and March 9 hearings. These members even went against the City Staff's recommendations that his application be denied (Star-News 3 - 10 - 09). That fact alone is very, very strange.
We think Lashley holds suspect ties to the HPC, which he has carefully groomed since his original membership on the commission.We think Lashley is a fraud and that his aims and interests are very bad for historic downtown.
Don Lashley has subverted our Historic Preservation system for his own ends. He has corrupted its integrity, and mocked the citizenry who depend on a solid Historic Preservation system to protect them from pirates like himself. Those honest members of the HPC will never again look at their jobs or positions in the same way. Nor will the rest of us.
And so we present to Mister Lashley the distinguished AWARD OF SHAME.
Congratulations, Mister Lashley! You have made our city just a little bit worse for being born.
- Peoples Advocates for a Historic Downtown
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