The Importance of HARC

By Rick Williamson

I know from being at the HARC meetings on the Romeo’s Restaurant sign applications a couple of years ago, how intricate and often tedious it can be for everyone concerned. And the HARC folks usually get all the flack for it while the applicants get all the sympathy for being “victimized” and city staff gets a mere slap on the wrist, if even that, for misinterpreting the applicable UDC laws.

But as is well known by followers of HARC hearings, and after looking at these signage issues from multiple viewpoints over multiple years, the HARC body is almost always the steady hand of reasoned conclusions in these matters.  They deserve all the credit we can heap upon them for the commendable job they do (without pay), the confounding criticism they endure (without relenting), and the frustrating extra work they often must do to straighten out predicaments caused by other’s ignorance or laziness (without complaint).

Our downtown is one of the biggest and best preservation gems in central Texas and nationally recognized for it.  So preserving the heritage and early nineteenth century integrity of our Old Town district is essential to the health and prosperity of Georgetown.  Surely people can appreciate that such a precious and valuable asset as this deserves to be wrapped in a protective coat of laws and procedures for any proposed changes.  It only stands to reason that proposed changes require a serious study and understanding of those protections along with purposely measured steps for enacting any modifications or definitions of existing code.

Consequently, the perceived “complicated” nature of the matters that HARC must review and try to resolve in everyone’s best interest – but primarily in the interest of Old Town preservationism – should not be taken as a personal attack on any given applicant.  The UDC definitions, ordinances, and laws were not designed around the personal wants and wishes of the applicants.   They were designed by, for, and about the preservation of Old Town.  And the assaults that happen are not initiated by HARC against an applicant,they are most often initiated by unrelenting modernizations of our world upon the vulnerability of our precious downtown.

Most modification requests by an applicant – such as a new type of sign configured in some new kind of fashion, or material, or position, or attachment, or whatever – is another attack on what presently exists.  So each such request must first be reviewed in the overall context of what it will do the integrity and preservation of what presently exists, and then also evaluated for what possible precedence it will set for future attacks, encroachments, and erosions of what presently exists.  Otherwise, the gem we enjoy today might well disappear in a slow death of cascading modifications right before our eyes.

So here’s the bottom line. Either an applicant accepts and understands this basic reality of reason about what HARC is there for, and why it’s crucial for everyone’s ultimate benefit that HARC is thankfully doing what it does, or they should look elsewhere in Georgetown to live, or operate a business, or invest in property. Simple as that.

Same goes for our City Staff and  City Council too, by the way.  Everyone needs realize the reality about HARC’s necessary function as our city’s authoritative body of knowledgeable decision making in these application matters.


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