Monday, March 18, 2013

A letter I never imagined writing to the council: opposing the Salemtown overlay

While I have opposed the proposed overlay publicly at the blog for months, I have not been persuaded to communicate my oppostion to Metro Council until this weekend. Overlay opponents approached me and asked me to join them in sending letters to council members in advance of the third reading of the bill. I certainly had sufficient reasons to consult our elected officials before, but finding out that increasing numbers of neighbors outside of the association feel alientated and angry about the overlay process was enough to convince me to send CMs the following:
I am writing to encourage you to defer BL2013-370 instead of passing it on third reading. In my opinion the bill has created more division than consensus in Salemtown because the democratic process has been disregarded in the name of passing an overlay.

I am a former neighborhood association president and co-founder of Salemtown Neighbors. I generally and in principle support overlays, but not as an ends to justify the means employed in Salemtown to make the conservation overlay appear popular or inevitable. I hope that before you approve this overlay you will ask supporters for a copy of the 2012 survey conducted by last year's SNNA officers. I think you will see that it is more of a biased push poll than it is an information gathering tool.

I oppose the overlay not because I believe it is a bad idea, but because the process has been rushed and community meetings poorly communicated. The only community meeting that I am aware of CM Gilmore sponsoring on this question was held in January. I found out about it a couple of days in advance after someone dropped a flyer on my porch without making sure that I had received the information.

Now members of the community are stepping forward to say that they only recently found out about the overlay and that they oppose it. This weekend I signed a petition against the overlay that was started on Friday. I am told it now has 50 signatures. Today a former president who supports the overlay wrote to the SNNA elist, "the meetings next week re the overlay [including third reading] are not public meetings, so please don't plan to attend".

If the overlay enjoys the broad neighborhood popularity that supporters claim it does, then where is the harm in extending the discussion so that all who feel excluded from the debate can be given a chance to speak and influence the measure?

Please do Salemtown a favor and defer the conservation overlay proposal until we can come to a freely reached consensus on where to go next. I am willing to support an overlay, but only one that is carefully constructed and inclusive of the many voices in our community. BL2013-370 as it stands is neither.

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