Romeo’s – Another Precedent that Blights Old Town

[Letter to Williamson County Sun, Not Published October 8, 2006 – Rick Williamson]

But HARC, Romeo, What Yonder Sign Doth Shine Too Blight?

Forgive my purposely punned literary references. But I think Old Town Georgetown is in a right-to-life fight against what our national anthem might call a “perilous blight!”

Romeo’s Italian Restaurant coming to the Town Square is essentially a wonderful thing for Georgetown. The hundreds of Old Towners who reside around the Square, myself included, are anxiously awaiting their opening with sincere intentions of patronizing it, as we do with most all of our Old Town businesses.

But, through no direct fault of their own it turns out, Romeo’s has applied for an extreme variance (our city staff calls it an “interpretation”) of the Historic Old Town’s signage ordinance that would set a Pandora’s Box precedence on the Square. Little wonder that several struggling businesses on or near the Square have lined up in support of that application, hoping to follow suit in the bigger-is-better mentality of signage in the Historic District of Old Town. It’s a much too rampant mentality that is already causing a cancerous blight on our Old Town values, regulatory rules, and now our actual historic buildings as well.

The travesty of this latest assault is an upcoming City Council end-around attack on HARC (Historic & Architectural Review Commission), and/or it’s efficacy. And it’s being led by our very own city staff, along with a few misguided city councilmen and HARC commissioners who have evidently encouraged them. But the true reason Romeo’s has been unsuccessful in repeated attempts to get their signage approved by HARC is squarely the result of our city staff’s egregious advice to Romeo’s. They, and a few self-described struggling businesses on the Square, are trying to use Romeo’s clout to orchestrate an assault on HARC and the very governing foundation that has been created to protect our cherished Old Town District.

I’ve lived in, traveled to, and participated with city governments of more than a few towns in Texas and the great Southwest. Never, however, have I witnessed such an assault on the historic significance and irreplaceable value of a town’s core essence and ambiance. The architectural significance of Georgetown’s NATIONALLY recognized and award-winning Town Square is being blatantly disregarded by the commerce-at-any-cost desperados in our local leadership and city staff – the folks WE pay to maintain our town values!

Through lots of hard work and constant effort by volunteer heroes, Georgetown enjoys the greatest restoration and preservation to its historical buildings of any city its size in Texas, including its Historic Overlay District surrounding those landmarks. Add to that the most perfectly authentic restoration of a county courthouse in the entire state. It takes little more than intuitive math to calculate the core value of this great gift to our inhabitants. And all that is asked of those inhabitants is to simply appreciate and preserve this genuine jewel.

Why o’why, then, does our city staff and not get that?? Why do they routinely side with so many ill advised, poorly researched, architecturally inappropriate, and citizen-opposed proposals from commercially desperate business concerns? Their ill-advised initiatives are most often illegally zoned, ordinance-offending, and preservation-appalling! How can that be? Why should we tolerate it for even one more moment??

The time has come, my fellow residents, to take immediate and meaningful action against these despots… these commerce-crazed zealots who would bastardize the regulatory framework of our historic town for the sake of the almighty buck. Our beautiful Town Square treasure trove is literally under siege! The carefully crafted checks-and-balance regulations, zoning configurations and protective ordinances are the backbone of our beautiful buildings and historic landmarks. We cannot, we must not, allow it to be crumbled by careless, short-sighted, self-interested business promoters! Come to the October 10th Council meeting and voice your opposition to this encroaching blight on our Old Town, or at least show your support for our cause!
Rick Williamson


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