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Military veterans snubbed by city officials in effort to build Piedmont Area Veterans center

By Leon Meyer
MSGT, USAF, Retired

Organizers of Piedmont Area Veterans Association have officially withdrawn any requests for assistance from the City of Piedmont. This decision was made after the organizers appeared at two city council meetings and met with the city staff on numerous occasions and received no support for the Veterans Center.

The history of the endeavor is fraught with character attacks, false rumors, and council pressure on the city staff to raise numerous roadblocks. In the beginning the organizers had a dream to honor all veterans by construction of a building strictly for veterans. It would contain a military library, museum, and a meeting area for meetings and counseling. Initially it was thought to be a good project for the Historical Society as the organizers would raise all the funds for the building. After several meetings with the Board of Directors, it was clear that an agreement could not be reached.

Meetings were held to decide what direction the project would take. At that point Phil and Cindy Boevers offered to donate a building site on Edmond Road. A survey was obtained, and it was discovered that the site would be too small under City ordinances, lacking 5 feet in width, 70′ instead of 75′. The veterans took the survey to the city staff and understood there should be no problem with the site. Immediately rumor started that somehow Boevers would benefit from the building, which was totally false.

The veterans submitted a request to the city council to waive all hook up and inspection fees. Ken Dickerson, who was chairman of the construction committee for the Historical Society when the Annex was built, had previously worked with City Attorney David Davis, the City Manager, and Mayor Mike Fina to waive these fees for the Historical Society, and the Council approved the waiver. In waiving the fees the attorneys used the same language that was used in the Williams contract in which all the fees were waived. However, the request to the present Council met with opposition, and no action was taken. At the next Council meeting the subject came up again, and the veterans who appeared at the meeting were met with character assassinations by several council members. One councilman, for instance, called the veterans “deceitful.” Other than Councilman Coffman, no public official, including the mayor and city staff, spoke on behalf of the veterans.

Since the building site was 5′ less in width than required by Ordinance, the veterans group, at the suggestion of city staff and City Attorney, filed for a variance of the 5′ with the Board of Adjustment. Other items in the application were worked out so that the only issue remaining was the 5′. After a meeting with the Community Development Director Wade Harden, the veterans thought several issues were resolved.

At that meeting it was discovered that Harden had given a copy of the application to Ben Felder of the Citizen newspaper, although the application was private until officially heard.
Further, Mr. Harden admitted that several council members had talked to him about the application and let him know that they were against the Application. Apparently they also talked to Dr. States, who was on the Board of Adjustment, because she resigned from the Board, stating she had clients on both sides of the issue.

After this happened we thought about whether we wanted to continue with the fight. We finally decided that with no support from city officials, the project in its present form would not work. Despite more than sixty years of military service by three of the organizers, who were also on the Committee that brought the Vietnam Wall to Piedmont, the council and staff gave no credence to the veterans or the project. One of the military retirees had been responsible for organizing the July 4th celebration for several years. Ben Felder of the Citizen newspaper, in his opposition to the project, said that the project should be opposed because the veterans were “a select few.” Perhaps Felder should check on that with the Air Force and Navy.

It is also ironic and puzzling that three of the public officials had told a veteran that they supported this project, but they did not express their support at the public meeting. In fact, two of them voiced opposition.

We will continue to work with the donors and other supporters to find a solution to honor the veterans in the Piedmont area, apparently without the city council and city staff support.

19 Comments

  1. grace wolfert says:

    You go guys, Oh don’t forget the Army vets! Thanks!!

  2. Holly says:

    What happen to “no double standards” “don’t waive fees for anyone” You don’t waive fees because of who donated the land?!? This city council is nothing more than a group of liars and crooks with a hidden agenda. People fight to get a councilman removed because he is a business partner with someone but this is ok. I moved here in the early stages of the fight to recall the city councilmen who were not able to do their job because of who they knew. This council is punishing the Vets for who they know. You people need to grow up. Sounds to me like Mr. and Mrs. Boevers are successful and you don’t like it. To the Vets: I’m sorry that after fighting for our freedom you have to fight for this.

  3. Bill says:

    For those who are in earnest interested in supporting our Veteran Hero’s there are hundreds of well established organizations available. If you are genuinely interested go to the Department of Veterans Affairs to search for Veterans Service Organizations (VSO). Individulas who are searching for representation (or to offer support) should only rely on information found in Office of General Counsel (OGC) search for Accredited Attorney’s, Claims agents, or Veteran Service Organization (VSO) representatives.
    “For organizations to be listed it must be Non-Profit that are national in scope, of good reputation, in existence and involved with Veterans for a minimum of three years, dedicated to a wide range of Veterans issues, with a membership of 1000 or be congressionaly approved.”
    The 2012/2013 directory is furnished as a convenience to the user to supply informaiton concerning organizations holding themselves out as providing services to the Veteran community.
    Thos who are in earnest making an effort to support our Veteran Hero’s will find a large number of well established Veteran Service Organizations available.

  4. john says:

    Bill, very good information to know.

  5. Vernon Woods says:

    In this latest attempt to place blame on everyone except Obama and the Communist Chinese, Mr. Meyer has fired up his group’s smoke machine and tried to mask the real issue in this latest civic battle for which Piedmont has become (in)famous.

    The issue is/was not the fact that a veterans group wanted to erect a building. The response from the city administration would have been the same if the sponsoring group was a church, a scouting group, or the Salvation Army. The issue is/was that the parcel of land being considered did not meet existing municipal ordinances, and therefore, the city administration was legally prevented from approving any building permits unless further action was requested by the group.

    The owner of the property could have requested that the Piedmont Board of Adjustments conduct a public hearing to consider whether exceptions to the ordinances should be granted. That request was never officially submitted. Please note that the request could only be made by the property owner – not by any other interested party.

    Instead, the group requested that the Council waive multiple permit and inspection fees, water and sewer tap fees, and reduce utility charges for the, as yet, unapproved building. Common sense would indicate that, until the building permits had been approved, any waivers or utility discounts would be meaningless. It is also appropriate to note that the actual values of the requested waivers would be extremely minimal compared to the total expense of construction.

    Concerning the specific ordinances the proposed building and lot would violate; in addition to the five-foot frontage issue, there were in fact five other violations which would require variances. Keep in mind that neither the city administration nor the City Council has any power to grant these variances – only the Board of Adjustments has that power.

    Had the property owner presented the issue before the Board of Adjustments, and the board granted variances to all ordinances violations, the City Council has no power to overturn that decision. The required permits would have been issued, and construction could commence. At that point, discussions about wavers would have been appropriate.

    Mr. Meyer has mentioned several people by name in his tirade:

    Regarding Dr. States’ decision to resign from the Board of Adjustments: Mr. Meyer’s reference to ‘people’ talking to her doesn’t make any sense and is ridiculous. That appeared to be her own personal decision.

    Regarding the comments attributed to Wade Hardin: As stated above, Mr. Hardin had no authority to override any ordinances, so any ‘resolution’ Mr. Meyer refers should be regarded as pipe dreams. In addition, the implied aspersions of Mr. Hardin which Mr. Meyer has made are completely out of line when considering the facts. Mr. Meyer owes Mr. Hardin a public apology for his statements.

    Regarding Ben Felder and the Piedmont Citizen: I would challenge Mr. Meyer to produce any on-line or print article that confirms the ludicrous statement that Mr. Felder has said anything negative about this veteran’s group, or the concept of the proposed project.

    In conclusion, as a Council Member who voted to wait until the building permits were granted until waivers were discussed, I resent the innuendo expressed by Mr. Meyer that the city administration and the Council conspired to derail this project. The rules and procedures required to continue the process were explicitly explained to his group, yet the group refused to request a Board of Adjustment hearing. They have only themselves to blame for the current outcome of this project.

  6. Concerned Citizen says:

    I wondered what purpose Leon Meyer’s article served. Seemed like a lot of whining to me. The Veterans group has continually gotten the cart before the horse. Excellent comments Vernon Wood! It would make total sense to go before the Board of Adjustments first, then get permits and request fees be waived; not the opposite.

  7. john says:

    Vernon, based on the comments from Leon Meyer they are no longer willing to work with the city and will not seek for variance on this defective lot of only 7345 square feet, where would you be able to park around such a facility if constructed. One observation I must note, Leon states they failed to broker an agreement with the historical society and now the city. It appears the common denominator of their own inabilities to broker an agreement with a well organized non profit and now a municipal govt. Boevers was not involved with the first discussion now they are wanting to blame everybody else for their shortcomings. Hopefully the PAVA will get their act and orginization on firm footing for future endeavers.

  8. Kate Kearby says:

    Since I watched Mr Hoar pay the BoA fee in cash at the council meeting I don’t know how you could say that they didn’t ask for it. The Hystorical Society didn’t want to offer the Veterans access or insurance to open the building at hours to allow VSOs and othe activities, so it wasn’t a matter of ‘brokering a deal’. Mr Woods it would be nice if you would actually represent us and know what people in your ward want. What could have shortly been a pretty assest to the community, will now have to take other routes and cost the ‘non profit’ plan to service, educate and provide honor to our Veterans will continue to go up. Guess we’ll be holding alot of “bake sales.”

    Kate Kearby
    US Army
    1974-1978

  9. john says:

    I think Leon Meyer is still lamenting his buttkicking from his election loss to Vernon Woods where he was soundly beat in a landslide in last year’s election. I believe that is where some of the animosity is coming that is written in this community opinion piece by Meyer.

  10. Kate Kearby says:

    I believe both Mr Woods and Mr Felder are either reading into this letter things that are not there or interpetation is in the eye of the beholder, both in this and Mr Felders article in the Citizen. I think you all should GET OVER IT,, and get behind the cause!

    Kate Kearby
    US Army 1974-1978

    “Our God and soldiers we alike adore ev’n at the brink of danger; not before: After deliverance, both alike requited, Our God’s forgotten, and our soldiers slighted”
    Francis Quarles quotes (English religious Poet. 1592-1644)

  11. Charles Coffman says:

    I believe some folks need to take a step back on this. Had the group went forward with the application they may very well have gotten the waiver. A veterans center would be great for town and I hope they continue the effort. Look, there are controversial issue involved I agree.. But there are some that are pretty quick to see biases. The process needs to be followed for all. Some city officials were accused of things they really had no authority to do, thus the motive does not match the accusation. Some processes are painful and full of rules, roadblocks, and uncertainty. It does help if everyone works together, and it does not help when some stoke old fires. Let’s take a breath, look at all the facts, and do it right the next time. Since some on the council (most) are veterans it makes no sense to say they are anti veteran.

  12. john says:

    Kate, I think you need get over calling people anti veterans when they have real questions and concerns. Your come back is always did you serve and if you didn’t you hate veterans. I want to thank you for your service to our country but please stop with the nonsense, its very counter productive.

    • Kate Kearby says:

      sorry, came thru the post VietNam stuff, hate for military and veterans is the norm in the world to me. if it doesn’t apply to your ‘land minds’ guess it’s not true, (p.s. it’s mines) so my Hy instead of Hi goof isn’t the only one in the discussions around this. k

  13. john says:

    I have one more question if all the variances were satisfied and the only variance left was the five foot width variance based on the very words stated by Leon Meyer, then in Gods name why did the PAVA not submit their formal application to have a open and transparent hearing with the board of adjustments? Why are they creating a public relations nightmare for themselves by crying and whining and stating inaccurate statements by Leon Meyer in this diatribe that what published this past week in the Gazette? I know exactly what the problem is for this group.

  14. Kate Kearby says:

    OK, I regress, I was at the fall meeting of this organization and everything was all happy, It was held at the historical society building, there were several people from both ‘city political sides’ . The only real unfortunate thing is there hasn’t been another full public meeting of the organization to let us all know exactly what’s going on and keep the ‘happy feeling’. I had thought at the time this would bring everyone togeather, there would finally be healing. too bad. Hope it gets better. I can’t be one of the big donors to this project financially, am grateful to those who can, but when they need someone to open the doors and be there, or someone to tend the flowers and lawn/garden, to raise the flag; I’m pretty good at that and have time, so there is my support. For the honor.
    Kate Kearby

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