Friday, December 18, 2015

Rockville HDC approves County request to move statue to Beall Dawson House

The Rockville Historic District Commission voted 3-1 last night to approve the Montgomery County Department of General Services request to move the Confederate statue from the historic courthouse to the Beall Dawson House. There was actually some drama at last night's meeting.

Commissioner Emily Correll once again recused herself, due to having testified against moving the statue at a public hearing, prior to being appointed to the HDC. That left a quorum of 4. But things got briefly tense when a 2-1-1-1 split emerged among the four commissioners voting.

Commissioner Jessica Reynolds said she favored the recommended spot at the Beall Dawson property. Chair Rob Achtmeyer countered that that site seemed too much like a rededication, and said the alternate location would be less formal. Commissioner Craig Moloney was not pleased about placing the statue in such a prominent place. He said he personally was offended by the statue, and that it is "defiant", not merely a fallen soldier surrounded by angels. Commissioner Anita Neal Powell concurred, saying that placing the statue at Beall Dawson was actually giving it greater prominence and visibility than the current site, where it is hidden.

Reynolds repeatedly made her displeasure with the County Executive known during the hearing, asking city staff what conditions the HDC could place on the approval to require the County to pick up the potentially hefty tab for moving, siting and posting of signage and other materials. She argued city residents shouldn't have to pay when it was the Executive who demanded it be moved.

The motion to approve was made by Reynolds and seconded by Powell. At the last moment, Moloney and Powell joined Reynolds for a 3-vote majority; Achtmeyer cast the lone dissenting vote.

What made for some drama was that earlier split - 2 people in favor (but each preferring different alternative spot), and 2 opposed. Reynolds ultimately sided with Achtmeyer on the alternate spot, setting up a 2-2 tie. A tie would have counted as a rejection of the County's request, potentially delaying the statue's move further.

Now the Mayor and Council will vote to accept or reject the statue at their February 8 meeting.

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