Involvement Is Still Everything

by Mark and Ginger
(New England)

We blogged, we texted, we e-mailed, we animated on our Web site. Still we had 9 people show up at our meeting about an outrageous and unnecessary rezoning to a heavier commercial category. The property's owner claimed she didn't need the higher zoning category to meet her tenant's needs, but she just thought she would ask for it because of that silly highest and best use thing. (read: property value)

So the 9 of us, 5 of us the organizers talked about what to do. Since our subdivision has only 89 houses, we decided that each of us surely could visit 9 people other than ourselves. We set aside the month of August to do it.

When we had another meeting two weeks after Labor Day, guess what? Even though some people didn't talk to everyone they were suppose to, our total attendance was 59.

We're really optimistic that our town fathers will listen to us now.

Editors' Reply:
Mark and Ginger, that's a great tactic. What we thought your story shows is that there's really no substitute for face-to-face communication when there is a specific topic on which you want fast action.

When faced with a rezoning situation, you don't have years to build a community organization. You just need people to show up and do something specific.

You can't afford people who are ignorant of the facts when you're fighting a rezoning either. So your solution of dividing up the work of contacting everyone in person is really helpful.

Think of the by-products of this too: I bet neighbors know one another better. If they already were well acquainted, I predict they caught up on the news and talked about the future of the neighborhood too.

While opposing a rezoning may not seem much like a community improvement project, truly an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when you have the threat of an incompatible land use.

Your actions set a good example for other property owners who might be tempted into land speculation.

We hope you didn't thwart a mixed-use development that could have been positive for the neighborhood. Combining frequently visited commercial uses with residential neighborhoods reduces the number of necessary trips by car.

Or possibly the commercial could have been a place of employment for someone in your subdivision.

However, most likely you were entirely correct in your actions. Most subdivisions just weren't designed for mixed-use, as much as today's planners might regret it.

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