For some reason I can't quite grasp, I've been doing an unusual amount of public speaking lately. At least, it's unusual for me.
Two weeks ago, I was standing in front of an audience of about 150 people, nervously thanking them for my induction into the Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame.
Last night, I was standing in front of 80 or so neighbors, one of about 25 speakers at the Lexington City Council meeting who were allotted approximately three minutes each to voice their views on a proposed historic district.
I am not a public speaker by choice. In fact, my preferred tool of conviction is the pen. But sometimes public speaking just cannot be avoided. I was obligated to speak at the Hall of Fame, and I was compelled to speak in the council chambers. I think I used up two of my three minutes there, which was good because the lawyers making presentations before council used up the rest of everybody else's unused allotted time.
My wife, Kim, also stood at the podium. She's generally a soft-spoken person who does not like the spotlight, but she knows how to speak her mind when the need arises. She did great. Somebody called us the Wehrle tag team.
This was the critical mass moment. After nearly 10 years of historic commission meetings, presentations and debate, council was finally going to vote on the planning board's recommendation to approve an amendment to the zoning ordinance to create an historic overlay district.
After nearly three more hours of civil debate and strong-willed opinions, the district finally was approved by a 7-1 vote of council.
This is what I had been hoping for. My argument, presented here previously in my blog (see here) and again last night before council, was that an historic district will provide protection from inappropriate development (say, a neighbor converting his now historic house into a B&B or into an apartment building) to the nearly 100-year-old homes that define Lexington's past as well as our current quality of life.
What I left unspoken was that I think an historic district completely complements the neighboring Uptown Lexington district, which in itself will conjoin with the planned Depot district. It's all forward seeking vision, and it's all interconnected.
Now that an historic district has been approved, and I am excited about it, I just hope my expectations are not dashed. A lot can still go wrong. The opposition made some valid points concerning property rights and added bureaucracy. I hope the historic commission makes wise and fair decisions and judgments because that's the only way it will really work.
But for now, I'm content that the big picture is looking good for the city and its residents.
And, hopefully, now I can take a break from my speaking engagements.