Friday, February 28, 2014

Was I sold a bill of goods on Salemtown's overlay a year ago?

About this time last year I expressed opposition to Salemtown's conservation overlay (now approved) based on my sense that it was being rammed through without regard for democratic process (full disclosure: I am generally an overlay/preservation supporter).

One of the claims that I heard overlay supporters make was an acknowledgement that ignoring democratic process in the name of other ends is generally not desirable, but that Salemtown's overlay was an extenuating and urgent circumstance, because it might be "the last conservation overlay that Metro's planning and zoning departments would approve." People I listened to told me straight-faced that Metro was going to move away from conservation overlays.

Almost exactly a year later I feel a bit betrayed by those in whom I placed trust. I am reading the following in the latest newsletter from the Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission newsletter:

Neighborhood Conservation Zoning Overlays More Popular Than Ever 

Due to the booming local economy and the increase in infill development, more and more neighborhoods are seeing the value of historic zoning. 

The purpose of historic zoning is to guide change in a neighborhood in a way that preserves its historic character and fabric. It does not change use. Most property owners want the additional zoning because it has been proven to protect property values ....

Most neighborhoods prefer the Neighborhood Conservation Zoning Overlay (NCZO) where the goal is to preserve historic “character.” Only demolition, new construction and moving a builidng [sic] are reviewed.

Holy moly. That is no where close to the dire pitch presented to me a year ago when Salemtown's overlay hung by a slim thread with community meetings threatening to kill our chances at an overlay. Were overlay supporters just blowing smoke up my skirt to get me to drop my principled and public objections to Salemtown conservation overlay? Your guess is as good as mine.

I just know that I'll take their red flags with a grain of salt next time.

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