900 people, get off my lawn
January 18, 2013 7:19 AM Subscribe
I live in a Midwestern college town, and we are homeowners fairly close to the university campus. A large chunk of land about a block from our house has been sold to a developer. The developer plans to turn it into student housing, provided they can get the required zoning changes. I'm looking for people who've had similar experiences dealing with local governments on zoning issues, and what I, along with my neighborhood organization, can do to cope in the months to come.
posted by sararah to law & government (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1. My street is primarily owner-occupied, although we are surrounded by streets that have a significant number of rental houses. The other side of the proposed development features owner-occupied properties.
2. The planned development is not high-density housing. Rather it's townhomes and small four-plexes, none of them greater than two stories. However, it's still about 900 new people living within a mile of our house. (We call this the best worst-case scenario)
3. The proposed development is rent-by-room, so each bedroom will have an individual lease. This doesn't really make it flexible for non-undergraduates to live there. Plus, it's really, really expensive and fancy. The developer assures me "anyone can live there!" to which I say "hahahahahaha forever!"
3a. The property has to be rezoned to medium density in order for the development to go forward as planned.
1. Since we live in between the proposed development and the bars, we're very concerned about increased late-night foot traffic, and the accompanying noise, trash, vandalism and peeing. Also vehicle traffic since we already have a lot of people that use our street as a speedy shortcut (pizza delivery vehicles driving 45 mph down my street, I'm looking at you).
2. Other neighbors are concerned about flooding in their neighborhood being exacerbated by the additional development. I'm concerned about the development having a huge impact on a tiny sliver of forested area that runs through the land.
3. The development will push homeowners out of the neighborhood, and after our property values plummet and we can't sell our houses, we'll just start renting them out like the rest of our neighborhood.
4. If student enrollment slows or falls off, we will be left with a huge, student-focused housing development that can't find tenants.
4a. Yes, this town is growing and it does need more housing. But it is my belief (backed up with limited research) that it doesn't really need that much more student housing (i.e. the university is already building more student housing as we speak). Obviously the developer stands to make a lot more money from the higher density housing versus low density reasonably priced housing (I doubt anyone would by a McMansion in my neighborhood, also McMansions are sooo 2005).
1. We're already forming a neighborhood action association and meeting with a city planner.
2. On our street, we're discussing closing off the end adjacent to the development, or forcing the city/developer to pay for speed bump installation (this would be annoying, but I think I would glean a sick joy from hearing the pizza delivery guys bottom out on my street for the first few months.)
3. Installing razor wire in my yard. (I kid! I kid! Sort of.)
What else can be done? As my significant other put it, "the Council is going to vote how the City Planner tells them to vote, and I'm guessing the developer has already had significant discussions with the City Planner." So....Should I look up a whole bunch of demographic information and argue the detriment of this development to the neighborhood and the city? Do I start calling around to property managers to obtain my own data to refute the developer's stance that "there are no housing vacancies in this town"? Do I start a blog to rage against The Man? Or is doing a bunch of research just a huge waste of my time?
Assuming the developer does get rezoning and the project comes to fruition, what types of demands should we make upon the developer in order to mitigate the impacts as much as possible? (Some thoughts are increased police patrols in the neighborhood, speed bumps/dead end our street as mentioned above, private security supplied by the development on the weekends, requiring the developer to have some sort of neighborhood improvement/neighborhood cleanliness initiative, a shuttle bus from the development to campus/bars since public transit currently does not go past a large portion of the development, etc.) What questions should we be asking of the city, and what demands can we make?
How can I be more zen about this entire process? (I am most definitely NOT ZEN at the moment.)
tl;dr: get off my lawn
(p.s. cute, cozy, and recently renovated house with amazing patio and back yard for sale, message me for more info. I kid! I kid! Sort of.)