Friday, September 9, 2011

Metro Council needs neighborhood advocates

You've seen my neighborhood.  You know I'm an advocate. When I served on the Metro Council, my district downzoned more area than any other district in the city. Residents who normally don't organize asked for the action, organized petition drives & met my request to show that 80% of affected property owners were in support of it.

That process worked. Some efforts took longer than others, and the process changed when I moved into a second term and new Councilmembers objected. Overall, the process worked - not just to restrict construction of "attached homes" where large-scale residential construction was allowed in primarily single-family neighborhoods. It also drove the Council to come to a new definition that solved the need to re-zone property to protect property owner's interests.

Base zoning in the area allowed construction of  "duplexes", homes built at the time to look like one home, usually ranch-style. I was an owner-occupant of one before I married. It was built in 1950. New "duplexes" became two stand-alone homes with 10-foot connecting wall during the booming '80's and beyond. They often pushed the limits of design to do this. Sometimes they worked. Often they didn't.

After I left the Council, the debate rolled on. It adopted a new definition of "duplex," defining two-stand alone homes on one lot as a "duplex" when they meet all set-back requirements and stand 10-feet apart just like they would if they had a wall.  That compromise satisfied everyone, except us language purists and I did not object. The issue died down. Community standards won.

Today endorsements for neighborhood-friendly candidates now in a run-off election for Metro Council were announced. Solutions can emerge from collaboration and consensus.
When partisan interests are tempered with thoughtful, impressive advocacy progress can happen.

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