- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2000

YORKTOWN, Va. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is protesting a project that would place a collection of gigantic presidential busts in a wooded area about two miles from Williamsburg.

Foundation officials believe the 18-to-24-foot-high concrete busts of every president from George Washington to Bill Clinton are "tacky and tasteless" and would detract from the historic value of Colonial Williamsburg.

Project organizers plan to display the busts in a proposed Presidents Park near the junction of Route 199 and Interstate 64.

"Our primary concern is that the Williamsburg area is a unique place in the historical landscape of America," said Tim Andrews, a spokesman for the foundation.

"We have real authentic history and we're concerned that this park does not fit in with what the Williamsburg area is known for."

But Everette H. Newman III, the developer of the park, disagrees. He went to York County Circuit Court June 23 to appeal an earlier zoning decision against the development.

"I think it's highly unusual for Colonial Williamsburg to use their massive influence against a small project, especially one not in Williamsburg, but in York County," said Mr. Newman, who first heard of the project when the York County Development Authority contacted him on behalf of sculptor David Adickes.

The Texas artist, best known for his statue of Sam Houston, was searching for a place near Williamsburg to house his recently completed presidential busts. Now it appears the county has some reservations about the idea. The sticking point is how the park will be classified.

The zoning administrator ruled that the park is an outdoor amusement and therefore requires a special-use permit, but Mr. Newman claims it should be labeled a museum or park, said William Parker, a spokesman for York County.

The County Board of Supervisors has final say over the project but is waiting until the Circuit Court rules, said Walter Zaremba, chairman of the board.

He said that, so far, the community seems to be against the project.

More is at stake than just the historic value of the area. Williamsburg officials are worried that the Presidents Park could steal or frighten away some of the roughly 900,000 visitors who buy tickets to Colonial Williamsburg each year.

"Colonial Williamsburg itself is the anchor for this area as a multiday destination. People come here and spend two or three days here," Mr. Andrews said.

"One of our concerns is that this would be a sideshow."

Mr. Newman disputes this contention, pointing out that many area attractions, such as Busch Gardens, Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg already pool their resources to attract tourists.

Until a permanent home is found, several of the busts have been moved to Norfolk Botanical Gardens; the rest remain with Mr. Adickes in Texas.

The city of Buena Vista, some 200 miles from Yorktown, has already offered to house the busts if York County rules against Mr. Newman. One well-known supporter of the Presidents Park is former President George Bush, a friend of Mr. Adickes'.

"Several years ago, I visited his studio in downtown Houston and was overwhelmed when I saw the busts he was doing of all 42 American presidents," Mr. Bush wrote in an open letter to project leaders.

"I agreed with him that the project was not only artistically important, but also one of historical significance for our country," Mr. Bush wrote.

But to others the issue is taste, rather than historic significance. While Mr. Bush and Mr. Newman describe the busts as works of art, many opposed to the project view them as "something that would take a fair leap from good taste and authenticity," Mr. Andrews said.

But Mr. Newman is continuing to make plans for the park, although where it will finally end up is uncertain.

He hopes it will be inspirational and will stir up visitors' "sense of patriotism."

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