While that ability to have one’s opinion heard is often a terrific benefit, sometime it becomes a terrific wedge that can split a community in two.
For example, recall the rancor in Wilmington over the construction of the Bank Park and in particular the pergola structure that is the centerpiece of the park. The controversial design led to a divide over the aesthetics of the pergola and appropriateness of it in the historic district of the village. The arguments over the structure were often testy and heated.
Wilmington may again face a similar situation over the rebuild of an art gallery along West Main Street. As most recall, artist Ann Coleman lost her gallery during the Tropical Storm Irene flood. Coleman has spent the 18 months since Irene trying to raise funds and get the permits necessary to rebuild. Now that she has done so, there are those who say the new gallery design will be inappropriate for the village. Sound familiar?
We certainly hope that’s not the case. Wilmington and the rest of the valley do not need to suffer through another protracted fight because someone doesn’t like the looks of a particular building. If there’s one lesson to be learned from the damage caused by Irene, it’s that we are stronger working together than fighting among ourselves.
Regardless of opinions about the design of Coleman’s building, she has gone through the proper process and received the permits necessary to begin rebuilding her gallery. For that she deserves the benefit of the doubt, regardless of what someone may think of the plans.
For those concerned about the aesthetics of the village, there are a number of things to focus that energy on. Rather than be concerned about a new structure, take a look at the many existing buildings in various states of disrepair. There are some that were damaged by Irene’s floodwaters that have had little, if any, reconstruction. There are others that were shuttered before the flood that have withered into eyesores. How about improving sidewalks or burying utilities? Doing those things alone could have a huge impact on the quality of the village.
Wilmington just received a downtown revitalization designation which should open up many doors for money and expertise to help the town in its ongoing recovery. A new organization, Wilmington Works, is being launched to help manage that process. The last thing the town needs right now is a fight over the design of a structure.
Now would be a better time for residents and merchants to put their differences aside and work together.