In an N&O article in the past couple of months or so there was mention that the total number of infill projects inside the beltline was about 600 or so since 2002. I think it would be interesting for the City to send out a survey to each of those infill projects as well as the homes on either side. The survey to the new project could ask the new owners if they had consulted with their new neighbors about what they were going to build, and what kind of reception they received. Each of the neighbors would also receive a survey asking questions about their perceptions about the new house next door. Anonymity would have to be guaranteed, but for the purposes of the city, the surveys would have a single identifying number that could be tied back to the individual properties. The only thing the public survey would show are comments by both the new home owners and the adjacent two (maybe more? )neighbors.
This kind of survey, I hope, would show if there really was a major problem with infill. Are the complaints broad or are they generated by only a few situations? For example, if the complaints are generated by less than 10 projects out of the total 600 or so, is there really a need to do anything?
In addition to the survey, I would like to suggest another idea for the short and near term that might help in coming up with a solution for the infill issue. What about setting up a Commission that would meet twice per month to review and comment on any infill projects. The Commission would be made up of architects, builders and neighborhood residents. The Commission members would comment on issues of scale, setbacks, design, etc. There would be a vote but it would be non-binding on the individual(s) who is proposing the infill development.
I think this would be a good way to accomplish at least three objectives. One, it would give this issue a higher public profile and thereby a greater and more sustained level of discussion. Second, the peer review and the pressure it may bring on a project might help it become better for the neighborhood. In addition, this peer review group may generate idea that could become useful in crafting a reasonable set of regulations if a survey shows a definite need for some type of action.