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Crime & Justice
Public Outcry Against Parkside Intensifies
Breaking News - July 9, 2008
PARKSIDE PROTEST INTENSIFIES
24/7 VIGIL BEGINS UNDER THE MAGNOLIA TREE IN FRONT OF ASHEVILLE CITY HALL
Photo by Byron Belzak/DowntownAsheville.com * Copyright 2008 MEDIABEAR
The 'Magnolia Lady' Climbs into Fray with 24/7 Vigil and Protest to Reclaim Parkland Sold to Parkside Developer Stewart Coleman
By Byron Belzak
Everything about Parkside is difficult, complex and, at times, gut-wrenchingly confrontational. And now, the "confrontation index" just got dialed up at least two notches by one determined woman, Dixie Deerman, who calls herself Lady Passion. She has worked for nearly a year to prevent the chopping down of the magnolia. She has attended numerous public meetings, talked countless hours on the telephone, met in person with city officials and others associated with Parkside and the magnolia tree, all to no avail.
Now, she said, she has been left no other option -- and not one that she would have preferred or chosen, but feels compelled to act upon -- and that means to publicly begin her 24/7 vigil of protest and care under the magnolia tree. Why? To protect it for people now and future generations. All by herself? "I am not alone," she said. "There are many who support me in doing this." How can she afford to do this? "I can't afford to do this. I am not rich. But I will do it with the help of others." Why now? "It is the right thing for me to do now," Lady Passion said under the magnolia.
Who is the Magnolia Lady? -- as she has been dubbed by DowntownAsheville.com. Her business card says, Lady Passion / Dixie Deerman, and features "The Goodly Spellbook." She is a Wiccan of the Coven Oldenwilde (www.oldenwilde.org).
On Monday afternoon, July 7, 2008, she made her decision immediately following the outcome of the public meeting presided over by a defensive, at times belligerent, Technical Review Committee (TRC). The TRC had quickly and unanimously approved the building of the controversial Parkside condominiums by the notoriously aggressive developer Stewart Coleman. This was done with little regard for the massive and impressive showing of public attendance and outcry at the TRC meeting. The public demanded that TRC halt the project, or delay its decision until after the outcome of the lawsuit brought by the heirs of George Pack was known. Lady Passion, filled with calm resolve, left the meeting with the support of her "handfast" partner, Steve Rasmussen -- who is called Diuvei of the Wiccan Coven Oldenwilde -- and walked to the magnolia tree, located less than 100 yards from the front door of Asheville City Hall, and made her stand. Someone's going to write a folk ballad about her someday, and tell her story true.
There, under the magnificent magnolia, she with the help of Diuvei and others, vowed to live under the magnolia tree, literally, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until the park land is given back to the people. The park land was willed to the people forever by two deeds of the late and benevolent George Pack. The deeds and land now in question are said by many to have been improperly, if not illegally, sold by Buncombe County Commissioners in November 2006.
The Magnolia Lady was motivated, finally, by the actions of the TRC's kangaroo public meeting. "It was obvious to me that they, TRC, had already made up their minds even before the public had spoken," said Lady Passion.
And what if she is removed by the police or under warrant of arrest requested by developer Stewart Coleman? "I will return," she said as she stood under the magnolia tree that she and other Wiccans had protected weeks ago with a curse against any and all who intend or actually harm their 100-year-old friend, the magnificent magnolia that as long been deeply rooted to the good people of Buncombe. "The tree should stand," said Lady Passion, so residents and visitors, such as the musicians of Shindig on the Green, who have played under the magnolia for four generations, can continue to enjoy its cooling shade, beautiful dark green shiny leaves, and the powerful fragrance of her white flowers.
Why now? "It was just time to do it," she told DowntownAsheville.com on Tues., July 8, 2008, at 8 p.m. The 100-year-old magnolia, which has become an icon of the protest to Stop Parkside, is located in the City-County Plaza directly in front of Asheville City Hall.
How long will she remain? "As long as it takes," she said.
Her ultimate goal? "To have the park land returned to the people," and to stop the building of the Parkside condominiums, she said while she stood under the magnolia in the cool evening air, and ran a large comb through her long hair under the watchful eye of Steve Rasmusssen. Rasmussen had publicly delivered a 1,003-signature petition to the County Commissioners at its June 24, 2008, public meeting to request that they "Stop Parkside." He said that he offers his complete and unconditional support of her actions to protect the tree. He then walked over to the base of the tree to rearrange a couple of bags of food that were sagging as Lady Passion continued her vigil.
The Magnolia Lady's protest will no doubt bring greater attention to "The Parkside Shame," as it has been called by many critical of the inaction or slowness of Asheville City Council members and Buncombe County Commissioners to stop Parkside. Many Buncombe County citizens have stated in public and private that they want local politicians to definitively stop the Parkside condomium project once and for all, and to reclaim the park land to be used forevermore for the public. The park land in question sets right in front of city hall and includes the magnificent magnolia, which day after day is now physically being protected by Lady Passion, the magnolia lady. The public is welcomed to join her in her protest under the magnolia.
Lady Passion, a.k.a. The Magnolia Lady, believes that the park land with the tree was sold illegally by the County Commissioners, as do many others. Those critical of the transaction, denounce the sale as being "sleezy." They point to the fact that the deal was accomplished as a last-minute agenda item, which was quickly added at the very beginning of a County Commissioners meeting in November 2006. Minutes later the sale was passed unanimously by the commissioners with little or no discussion. In fact, well-known local journalist and author Cecil Bothwell had stated in a recent radio interview on The Ellington Thompson Show that he had attended that meeting and that neither he nor other members of the press nor the public who were in attendance realized what had taken place. The sale of the park land in question where the magnolia tree now stands, said Bothwell, went unnoticed for over a month by both citizens and the press. Commissioner and local lawyer David Gannt was the first to formerly apologize for the commissioners' action, saying, "We screwed up." Later, county chairman Nathan Ramsey publicly admitted that the sale was "wrong."
In the final analysis, Lady Passion and other "Stop Parkside" supporters demand their elected officials to fix the problem immediately. She believes that means for the politicians to reclaim the land, stop Parkside from being built on city hall's front lawn, and save the magnolia tree. Besides, as everyone knows, Mother Nature and Asheville's Wiccans do not like to be messed with.
Copyright 2008 MEDIABEAR All Rights Reserved
EXCERPTS ALLOWED WITH ATTRIBUTION
For detailed daily reports from under thee magnolia, visit "ASHEVILLE ON THE GROUND," Click Here>
For the Asheville Tree Commission report concerning the magnolia, Click Here>