Thu, Aug

Councilman Koretz: Tiptoeing through a Zoning Overlay Minefield

VOICE IN THE CHEAP SEATS - Report from the trenches: June 2nd … The day of reckoning.  The opportunity to set the record straight.

As you know from my “Open Letter”, a small group of neighbors is asking Paul Koretz (Councilman 5th District) to help them put an onerous zoning overlay on my neighborhood without the overwhelming support of the people who live here.  

This meeting was our chance to show our Councilman the deceptive tactics being used by the proponents and to debunk his survey which was nothing less than propaganda right out of the proponent’s playbook … replete with bogus terms and bogus charts and questions worded to encourage overlay support.

Both sides were invited to the table.

I was allowed to read an opening statement which touched on the topics of concern for us: The deceptive nature of the bogus terminology used by the proponents and the survey, the need for people to understand what is being proposed, the need for overwhelming support of the neighborhood, and the onerous nature of the proposed size limits.

Here is where everything went horribly wrong.  

The Councilman's clearly biased survey was not on the agenda for discussion.  He would not examine his survey in any way.  He would not look at the graphs or discuss the language or even the questions used to mislead the respondents.  He expressed solid faith in the fairness of the survey.  

All attempts to point out the bias or question the results of the survey were rejected.  We were left with simple numbers.  How many “for”, How many “against”, How many for “less”, How many for “other”.  The numbers were as convoluted as the questions.  The results were clearly tainted, but just as clearly accepted by the Councilman as valid.

There was no discussion of  lower property values.

There was no discussion of lost tax revenue.

There was no discussion of what constitutes a modern home.

There was no discussion of the true impact of the Overlay on the neighborhood.

There was no discussion of the Councilman's Promise to not support any zoning overlay without the overwhelming support of the neighborhood.

There was no real discussion of anything but the bogus responses to the bogus survey.

The proponents, of course, pumped up the survey results as a clear mandate for an Overlay and kept pushing Mr. Koretz to make it happen.

Bottom Line:  

The proponents did not get the 70% of survey responses Christopher Koontz (Koretz's Planning Deputy) said he would need to back the Overlay.  So game over …  right!?  In spite of the propaganda, the phony terms and misleading graphs, they couldn't even get 70% of the responses to the bogus survey let alone 75% of the neighborhood.  

Game over!!!     Right!??!!!

Well … no …

Because the survey is held in high esteem by the Councilman, he believes the results indicate that many people want an Overlay.  He suggested that we (pro and con folks) get together and work out a compromise.  This was immediately rejected by Shelly Wagers and frankly I don't blame her.  We (the pros and cons) have met numerous times over the past 5 years and we have never reached an agreement on anything.

Besides, what gives us the right to decide for the whole neighborhood?  Just because we are passionate about our views, it does not mean we represent the overwhelming majority of people on the five targeted streets.  This Overlay will set our neighborhood apart from the City.  It will lower the value of small homes by hundreds of thousands of dollars taking millions of dollars of value away from the neighborhood.  

Over time it will take millions more away from the county in taxes.  It will discourage home improvements.  People wishing to move into the neighborhood will have to think twice before buying into a restricted community.  I hate to say it … I have been here 63 years … but it would be foolish to buy into this area if the overlay is put in place.

It is unfair and unethical to place such an onerous Overlay on the neighborhood without overwhelming support of the people who live here.  That is exactly why the law requires signatures from 75% of the neighborhood before an individual can even apply for an Overlay.

I mentioned this at the meeting and Paul Koretz was quick to remind me that he didn't need any support to go forward with the Overlay.  Well yeah … we know this.  That is exactly why the proponents are talking to him.  They don't have the required support to submit an application on their own.

What we don't understand is why he is even considering it.  

He promised us he would not support any zoning ordinance without overwhelming neighborhood support.  Now there seems to be some wiggle room in his promise.  

We are not happy.

The good news, if there is any, is that Paul Koretz wants to see more support than he currently sees before putting his name to the Overlay.  

It is frustrating that he is not addressing the flaws in his survey nor is he willing to question the validity of the results.  It is even more frustrating that he will not commit to using “Living Space” as an honest descriptor of home size.  I don't know how we can have an honest discussion of size limits if we don't accurately describe the size.  

If this does go forward and the people find out they have been hoodwinked, I think they will come out of the woodwork to fight this Overlay.  

What now?

The Councilman wants a compromise.

The proponents want him to take the lead and put something forward.

We want him to leave us alone and let the Mansionization Ordinance do its job.

I don't know where we go from here.

(Our “Average Joe” is Charles Tarlow,  a mid-city resident and community activist. Tarlow writes Voice in the Cheap Seats for CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected] .) –cw

Tags: Paul Koretz, 5th District, Zoning Overlay

Vol 9 Issue 45
Pub: June 7, 2011