Monday, January 28, 2013

Despite expressed reservations, Salemtown overlay moves on

I received word that the overlay will be one of the matters up for discussion at tonight's Salemtown Neighbors business meeting. Here is what current association president, Freddie O'Connell, has communicated about SNNA's stance on the overlay:

Councilwoman Gilmore took the next step in an SNNA initiative that began last year: pursuit of a conservation overlay for Salemtown. She signed off on the initial application for the historic zoning change with the Metro Historic Zoning Commission. As currently planned, it would cover 3rd-7th Avenues North for the area between (but not including) Hume and I-65. The proposed design guidelines are here:

There will be a number of opportunities to weigh in on the guidelines (everything from suggesting changes to expressing support or opposition) as this process plays out over the next few months. SNNA voted last year in favor of an overlay, and I'm sure this will remain a topic of important discussion until it's either in place, postponed, or withdrawn. I plan to keep the association informed throughout the process. Let me know if you have any questions.

Other neighbors have approached me with their concerns. One forwarded me his letter to Erica Gilmore with pointed expectations:

I am not against some form of overlay for the Salemtown neighborhood. In fact, I support it. However, I believe the process has been rushed and the stakeholders haven't been provided adequate time or information to make an informed decision on the future of our neighborhood property values.

Furthermore, I do not think a walkthrough with a small group of homeowners and the MHZC is appropriate due diligence to circumvent height restrictions and other regulations ALREADY COVERED BY METRO CODES ....

I urge you to delay sending this proposed zoning overlay to metro council until the following steps have been taken.

1. MHZC makes the latest draft of the overlay available on their website, and sends notification to each stakeholder.
2. Stakeholders should have a minimum of 14 days to review the latest draft.
3. MHZC should thoroughly document their decision criteria for "contributing/non contributing" properties, as well as their block by block criteria for the arbitrary determination of the "feel" of Salemtown.
4. Another public meeting, this time with a minimum of 10 days notice, should be held. This should give you a better feel of the neighborhoods view on this overlay.

I have been one of the opponents of this conservation overlay not for the usual reasons that it limits the earning potential of rising property values or that it discourages development. I do not agree that overlays necessarily do either one.

I have plainly opposed this overlay because it is based on a survey that was not objectively or transparently conducted by last year's SNNA executive board (while this year's SNNA leadership expresses more openness to community feedback, there are holdovers from last year's board). I helped found SNNA (8 years ago next month) with the idea of being an inclusive, process-oriented, civil association that involved people in determining government policies that affected them. The survey on which the conservation overlay is based is a total betrayal of that principle.

Until a new, more honest survey is conducted, I cannot support this overlay. And I surely do not believe that the ends (conservation of neighborhood character) justifies the means (trampling on and discarding democratic process). There need not be unanimous buy-in for an overlay, but the process to determine buy-in must be authentic and free from the appearance of bias of the views of the few. As it is this proposal is a farce without due diligence, and I support those who call for starting the process over again with honest and inclusive communication.

For her part, Erica Gilmore responded to my concerns 2 weeks ago:

As always, thanks for your email. I missed you at the meeting. The concerns that you expressed have been expressed by another neighbor or two so the point is well taken of not wanting to ruch [sic] any type of legislation. However, I did want to make you aware that Robin Zeigler at the Historic Commission is more than happy to discuss any questions or concerns that you may have as it relates to the Conservation overlay.

And I as always you can count on me to listen to what your concerns are. At this point, the bill has been filed, but it will probably not come up for first reading at the late February early March so there is plenty time to continue to discuss the concerns you have about the overlay.

I do not understand why the council member would push this ahead without making sure that community buy-in is firm on the front end. I agree with those who argue that it appears that a small number of people are determining this project. If that is true, then I expect what I have seen in the past: the potential for an overlay/rezoning issue to blow up at public hearing.

No comments:

Post a Comment