Two of the four candidates for mayor of Saint Paul de Vence responded to our questions about the arts, development, the environment, and local hero James Baldwin. Municipal elections begin March 15.
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Maison Baldwin: As a nonprofit association dedicated to using the arts to celebrate James Baldwin's life in St. Paul de Vence, we are interested in your plans for advancing the creation of art and literature. What specific measures will you take not only to develop local artists and writers, but to support and attract those from around the world? How will you make the place that so inspired James Baldwin more accessible to others like him?
Camilla: Our cultural strategy involves highlighting the intangible and cultural heritage of Saint-Paul. We have focused on literature, cinema, music and the visual arts and we wish to strengthen our actions on cultural projects in these four areas.
For literature, we will: develop meetings with “baby readers” to raise awareness of literature from an early age; develop a participatory “Reader's Café night of reading;” and promote access to reading at the media library. The aim of these programs is to arouse the desire and share the pleasure of reading.
We want to clearly identify the Clos de Tantine as artist residences, managed by City Hall, available for community projects. After its renovation, we want to expand its availability and offer calls for residencies.
We will develop cultural events and, above all, support the emergence of new major projects in partnership with cultural associations. We are committed to supporting the symposium organized by the Les Amis de la Maison Baldwin. And we will remain attentive to nurturing, supporting and collaborating on cultural projects through our system of participatory commissions.
Faure: Saint-Paul has always been a cultural breeding ground. This pool unfortunately tends to run out of steam and Saint-Paul becomes more a place of cultural trade than of cultural creation. We think that to preserve the future of our community it is very important to focus on cultural intellectual exchange and not just on the commercialization of art.
Our cultural program is based on two major axes. The first is the development of a set of international-level cultural events. These will not be in large in number but will be of high quality and will mark and strengthen the international place of cultural creation that Saint-Paul should be. These "Meetings in Saint Paul" will focus on the major arts: architecture, literature, music, dance, painting, and sculpture. Only one such local event of this level exists today: the annual music festival. The work of James Baldwin and events like the one you are planning soon around his work will obviously have their place in these events.
Our second axis is focused on local culture and traditions. We wish to revive a certain number of traditional festivals which have disappeared.
Maison Baldwin: Part of our association's goal is to witness, record and preserve the legacy of James Baldwin in Saint Paul de Vence. The loss of the house where he lived has caused a significant stir and is in our view a great loss for the village both culturally and environmentally. Do you believe the city council made a sound decision in 2015 when they approved the demolition and building permits at James Baldwin's former home in order to construct the Jardin des Arts? If yes, why? If not, what are your plans to ensure that a project such as this is not approved again and that St Paul preserves its authenticity?
Camilla: To the question whether the municipality made a good decision, we will say no. Since the municipality could not buy this land, how could we oppose the financial attractiveness of building in such an environment?
By facilitating and supporting the division of land, the Loi Alur of March 24, 2014 no longer allows the mayors of our municipalities to oppose a building permit. Any refusal must be justified and based on the rules written in our Local Urban Plan. Unfortunately, we did not have in this plan, which has just been replaced, the tools necessary to oppose this project.
We worked with the architects on the aesthetics of the buildings to try to improve the integration of the whole project in its environment, and to make sure that Mr. Baldwin's house could live as well as possible amidst a verdant garden space.
Faure: The municipality of Le Chapelain / Camilla accepted a very serious responsibility by signing this building permit. It is an architectural aberration and an insult to our village. I would never have signed such a permit.
Our position on town planning is quite simple. We must limit construction in Saint-Paul. We will not escape the construction of social housing which some inhabitants need, but that does not mean building large complexes such as is being prepared in the Malvan and which we may be able to avoid. In the same way, we will intervene preventively so that the OAP of the Bastide Rouge does not create a new disaster.
The new Local Urban Plan, which was voted on the run 20 days before the elections (an astonishing procedure which raises a lot of questions) is not to be rejected as a whole. However, as the work was accomplished in complete absence of consultation with residents, a certain number of inconsistencies will generate an avalanche of disputes that we will have to manage. The basis of town planning must rest on transparency and concerted action, even if I know very well that it is impossible to satisfy everyone.
Maison Baldwin: A little-known fact about James Baldwin is that he was an ardent environmentalist. Baldwin knew that the preservation of our natural surroundings is essential not just for the survival of the planet but for the inspiration of the spirit. What are your specific plans to ensure the commune of Saint Paul preserves and protects its green spaces?
Camilla: On February 29, 2020, our municipality adopted a new Local Urban Plan. We wanted to protect our municipality as well as possible in the face of the State's requests for densification of building areas, and we had to explain to the authorities and defend point by point the decisions we wanted to make for Saint-Paul.
We now have new tools at our service: a building footprint coefficient of 15% and green space of 70%; a greater green distance with the boundaries of the land and a doubled distance between buildings on the same property; and a maximum building length of 25m.
We have reaffirmed and readjusted zoning limits, adopting a real ecological approach by creating ambitious green and blue patterns where the natural and landscaped heritage meets buildings. We have reclaimed agricultural space, protected trees and heritage buildings and restored spaces that were unsuitable for construction back to the forest.
Faure: Many green corridors, in addition to all our natural spaces and classified wooded areas, will once again allow flora and fauna to regain their rights in the midst of our habitats, for our greatest pleasure. You will find in our program a list of actions we plan to carry out in this area; I will let you discover them in that document.
There is one however that I would like to highlight: commitment #32 of our program. I am convinced that the best line of action is to treat the environment as a concern as we structure all municipal initiatives. We will therefore constitute an environmental protection advisory council which will be made up of elected officials and concerned residents. This council will be consulted for all major projects in the municipality so that the environmental dimension is always considered before we make a decision.
The two candidates who did not respond to our survey, Corinne Paolini and Christophe Issagarre, nonetheless assure we have their full support for our organization and its work.