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Votes

Council Notebook

<b>An Award, Dig It?</b>

Awards can sometimes be a little like fruitcake. You’re happy to get one, but you’re never really sure what to do with it. After the glow of appreciation wears off, it can become another piece of clutter complicating your life. But not the new <b>Ben Brenman</b> Award, which debuted this week at City Hall.

Named for one of the founders of the city’s Archeology Commission — a man who acted as chairman for an astounding 21 years — the Brenman Award was created to recognized those who demonstrate "high

quality work, innovation, commitment or extraordinary efforts in conducting and documenting research and advancing public appreciation and advocacy for archaeology." Tuesday night, the awards were presented to E. Sanders Partee, Eakin-Youngentob Associates and John Milner Associates. Each of the three awards was a one-of-a-kind creation City Archeologist<b> Pam Cressy </b>called a "stratigraphic trophy."

"We thought you may have enough plaques to hang on your wall," Cressy told the recipients. "But you might not have enough dirt in your office."

The awards contain layers of clay, sand, gravel, dirt and — yes — modern artifacts such as broken plates sandwiched between two pieces of glass. The result resembles a cross between jeweler’s ant farm and a miniature geology exhibition. Members of the Archeology Commission were quick to point out that the materials used to fill the awards were modern artifacts, not the important pieces that are protected by the city’s archeology ordinance Brenman helped to institute.

"We wanted to make sure they had artifacts in them," said <b>Adron Krekeler</b>, a member of the commission who designed the award. "That’s what archeology is all about."

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<b>Snow Buddies</b>

<bt>Being a good neighbor sometimes requires a little work, especially when it snows. According to the city’s snow ordinance, residents and property owners must clear their sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of the snowfall or risk a fine of $50 or more, depending on the amount of snow involved. Last year, city officials had to send out more than 500 hand-delivered letters that threatened individuals with a snow-removal fine.

"There were about a dozen or so cases last year that didn’t respond to the letters, and we had to go after them," said <b>Rich Baier</b>, director of the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services. "For the most part, people responded to the warning letters."

For those who are unable to remove their snow because they are elderly or disabled, city officials have created a new program to match eligible residents with able-bodied volunteers known as "snow buddies." Interested parties can apply to the Office of Citizen Assistance (703-838-4800) in advance to ensure that their sidewalks are cleared in a timely fashion to avoid fines or snow-removal charges.

"We’ve been clearing snow in this city for 249 years," said Mayor <b>Bill Euille</b>. "So this is nothing new."

"But each year we get better at it," said Vice Mayor <b>Del Pepper</b>.

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<b>Cart Before Horse</b>

People who are interested in demolishing all or part of a historic structure to build an addition face a mind-boggling maze of hurdles at City Hall. First, there’s the demolition permit — which they can’t get until they have demonstrated plans for what they hope to build after the demolition. So people like Trophy Room owner<b> Michael Zarlenga</b> spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire architects, produce blueprints and shepherd their plans through the approval process only to find out that their application for a demolition permit has been denied. After Zarlenga’s demolition permit was denied last September, he issued a tersely worded press release announcing the Trophy Room will close on Dec. 31.

"I don’t think this is a process that’s fair," said Councilman <b>Paul Smedberg</b>, the only member of City Council to vote against a motion to deny Zarlenga’s demolition permit. "Why are these two elements joined together?"

Smedberg criticized the process again during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting just as another demolition controversy is quietly brewing behind the scenes. On Dec. 15, council members will consider another appeal in which the owners of a property on North St. Asaph Street will be challenging the Board of Architectural Review’s denial of their proposed demolition permit. Homeowners <b>Laurie Lowe</b> and <b>Carl Gudenius</b> wanted to obtain the permit as part of a plan to build an addition to the rear of their building, but the Board of Architectural Review said no. Council members are scheduled to hear an appeal on Saturday.