2014-02-07 / Opinion

BOPNA Supports Responsible Progress

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to the letter NTW published on Jan. 23, 2014 from Laurence Cutler ("Facts Support Breakers Proposal"). I do so in my capacity as President of the Bellevue Ochre Point Neighborhood Association, (BOPNA). Mr. Cutler’s letter is so full of falsehoods and errors that it is difficult to know where to start. Apparently, he has never gotten over BOPNA’s opposition to some aspects of his proposed museum back in 1999. However, that is past history and should have no bearing on the matter of The Breakers welcome center.

Mr. Cutler states that BOPNA “hired an architect to build a meritless case…to oppose the center, and relied on nonissues and innuendo.” Further, that our expert Patricia O’Donnell’s input “had negligible content and no value.” Ms. O’Donnell’s firm, Heritage Landscapes, is world famous with regard to both landscapes and urban planning. Mr. Cutler’s expertise in this area is nonexistent.

I will let a letter from Mr. William Bolger, written on Jan. 24, 2014 to Trudy Coxe of the Preservation Society, summarize BOPNA’s views. Mr. Bolger is the National Historic Landmark program manager for the National Park Service, Northeast Region. With regard to the center he says, “We hope that you will reconsider your plans and choose an alternative that will not damage the NHL (The Breakers)."

In Mr. Bolger’s opinion, “The need for an appropriateness of any kind of major construction on the grounds of the NHL is the issue… Building a structure of this size in a virtually pristine historic property constitutes a significant and intrusive change. One of the arguments presented to us (by the Preservation Society) is that visitor centers such as you are planning are routinely located close to the key resource both at National Parks. We disagree.” Unfortunately, The Preservation Society by falsely alleging interference in local regulatory processes was able to convince the Park Service that they should retract their letter. However, they did so only with respect to its possible impact on the timing of a local regulatory hearing. We believe that the points that Mr. Bolger made remain valid.

Mr. Cutler says that BOPNA has “concocted specious rumors" that the grand homes along Bellevue Avenue "would all follow suit with visitors centers should the current proposal be approved.” Another totally false statement. What would happen with approval is that a dangerous zoning precedent would be established in Newport, where any house museum could in the future establish a visitor’s center or restaurant on their grounds. If The Breakers can do it, why not anyone else?

Finally, Mr. Cutler slandered our association when he said that we are “known for irresponsible battles and ignoring the facts”. In fact, we have cooperatively worked with Salve Regina University to facilitate the planning and construction of their new chapel and to redesign and enlarge their cafeteria. We also worked with his architects when Mr. Ellison proposed to re-build Astor’s Beechwood supporting a plan that would allow the authentic restoration of this historic building. We had hoped to work cooperatively with the Preservation Society. We have never been against responsible progress. James E. Moore

Newport

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