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Robert Wolf Responds: Rezoning shouldn’t happen Your Mail

The Thursday Town Talk front page story by Jim Leggett lacked objectivity and accuracy. The article also unjustly hinted of racial bias, which may sell papers but plays no roll in fully understanding or resolving the present conflict.

The Sisters of The Holy Family began their search for housing in Alexandria earlier this year assisted by Realtors Pattie Deville, Charles Deville and others. The Realtors and other representatives of the buyers and sellers contacted Glen Couvillion, Alexandria’s zoning control officer, prior to the sale. Couvillion advised the interested parties that they could buy and operate a ‘group home” in Single Family-2 or other single family zoned neighborhoods. This action was based on an opinion by former city planning director Darrell Williamson after a controversy concerning a group home in Plantation Acres. None of the above was disclosed publicly and the city code was not changed. It turns out that the advice of the zoning control officer was wrong. The “group home” theory used in the purchase and use of both the 3000 Elliott St. and George’s Lane houses was not valid. When I found out about this, the nuns had already purchased both homes and were occupying them. Mr. and Mrs. Brooks Harris sold the house to the nuns. They did not speak to their neighbors about the sale and they did not have to. He did contact the city zoning office prior to the sale, according to Couvillion. All of the adjoining property owners of the above property, except Dr. Michael Menache, objected to rezoning. Many other property owners, including myself, were and are opposed to the properties being rezoned, but not opposed to the nuns’ use of the property. After the problem surfaced and it became apparent that there would be some action either by the city or by a civil suit, Ellis Saybe, I have been told, began contacting and negotiating with residents of Georges’ Lane, excluding myself. We do not want the old Roy O. Martin Jr. property rezoned to allow bed and breakfasts, cemeteries, clubs, lodges, day cares, golf courses, libraries, museums and other public buildings or philanthropic institutions. We do not want to displace the nuns, but expect them to sell the property when they have recovered from the Katrina disaster. I along with others would be happy to donate money to help them recover. It is most important to maintain the essence of, quality and feeling of all neighborhoods. A residential neighborhood should remain just that unless it is affected by uncontrollable or inevitable change usually emanating by outside forces. Alexandria’s zoning codes must be updated and enforced to protect all neighborhoods. At this time I am resolved to working with Kelvin Sanders, the city attorney, and others to resolve this problem for the benefit of all Alexandria. Robert A. Wolf Alexandria

Today's issue of the Town Talk also featured a letter from the previous home owner, Brookes Harris, in which he quotes scripture that implies Mr. Wolf could be "godless." Geez.

More on how to misunderstand and malign a man in thirty minutes:

  1. Take an ordinary story about zoning laws and government incompetence.
  2. Single out the whistleblower who protests this incompetence.
  3. Imply that he hates nuns.
  4. Imply that he wants to make them homeless.
  5. Write about the nun's sympathetic back story. It may not have anything to do with zoning laws, but hell, it'll line people up on their side, regardless of the facts.
  6. Point out that the nuns are African-American. This will make their white neighbor look racist. (See the Town Talk's online thread if you don't believe me).
  7. Make sure your headlines are misleading. Most people just read the headlines, after all, and if it looks like these "hurricane-displaced nuns" are "fighting to stay in their home," well, that's all the public needs to know.
  8. Allow the general public to write misinformed letters of attack against Mr. Wolf. Publish these letters on your website. Allow anonymity.
  9. Imply (or allow others to imply) that Mr. Wolf had a financial stake in the sale of these homes, even though he did not.
  10. Publish a letter that implies Mr. Wolf is "godless."
  11. Do not make any factual corrections. Retract nothing. Correct nothing. Instead write an editorial about how it's unfair that someone else (that high school student from Marksville) was allowed to "break the rules," and then explain why we set up these rules for a good reason, why it doesn't matter who the rulebreaker is, and why we must enforce these rules to be fair to everyone else.