Taking Away Your Right to be Heard

At our last City Council meeting I voted against a decision to explore allowing developers to build, by right, cottage courts in R-2 and R-4 zoning districts (two and four homes per acre respectively). Currently, R-2 and R-4 zoning districts are limited to single family homes. If you bought a single family home in one of these neighborhoods, I bet you didn’t expect that someday someone could buy a few lots, tear down the existing homes and replace them with up to 30 or more “cottage homes” – at type of high density development where the housing units are arranged around a common courtyard with an optional “community center” for facilities like laundry, TV, or recreation.

There is nothing wrong with cottage courts. During our last term I voted in favor of adding cottage courts to R-6 and R-10 zoning districts. Those zoning districts are already high density and cottage courts are another housing option that would be appropriate in them.

Today if a developer wants to build cottage courts in R-2 and R-4 zoning districts, he can’t do so by right. But, he could petition the city to rezone the land to either R-6 or R-10. Doing so would involve a public process of presenting the proposal to citizens at meetings of a Citizens Advisory Council, presenting the proposal to the Planning Commission, and finally holding a public hearing before City Council. At each step in the process, YOU, get to have a say. You can support the proposal, fight against the proposal, or find common ground for a compromise including appropriate buffers, heights, parking, etc.

But, if this proposal to allow cottage courts “by right” is eventually enacted, then your right to be heard will go away. There will be no notification, no discussion at Citizens Advisory Council meetings, no discussion at the Planning Commission, and no hearing before Council. You will likely not know anything until the bulldozers show up one day to clear the neighborhood.

Think it can’t happen? The big business that is development wants the ability to pursue this type of development due to the increasing lack of land. Cottage courts are the beginning to be followed by duplexes, triplexes, quadraplexes and larger, more dense housing in R-2 and R-4 zoning districts. And they want the ability to do it without meddlesome citizens getting in the way.

And at our last City Council meeting the vote was 7 to 1 to find ways to make it happen – to take away your right to be heard.

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