Friday, April 4, 2008

Resident's Report on Infill Public Workshop

Fallonia had the good fortune to get out of her obsolete house this week and go downtown -- to attend the Public Workshop on the Infill Study. Making it all the way downtown to the Progress Energy Center, aka Memorial Auditorium, she found plenty of "Progress" and plenty of "Energy" -- if bulldozing is your thing.

Upon signing in, the first observation was a temperous man who was complaining to all comers that there was a test to compare infill houses and they would be showing slides of houses, and some of them were his houses. Fair enough, I thought. Here is a chance for some feedback about your work.

This became the tenor of the meeting, however. Citizens had come to see the results of the study (a year in process, not a new study as reported on WRAL-TV), and offer some feedback on what is going on in their neighborhood.

The business side of this debate came to prevent the issues from seeing the light of day. Childish tactics ensued.

The presentation did continue, the Planning Department did a good job of trying to explain the study and the findings. Some residents did speak up, in the midst of this climate. The "test" was completed, the scoring will be indicative of a person's perspective. As a resident, I tried to accept some refill homes as not harmful (there was not a check box for "yuck, but acceptable") having seen the tip of the iceberg. I believe there were some from the residential other camp that tried in earnest to rate the qualities that make one building offensive and another acceptable. But the comments from the rest of the peanut gallery indicated that there was nothing wrong with this picture. (The pictures they used were another matter, unclear context in many cases).

Suffice it to say, the collective personality of the assembled people who are doing business in your neighborhood demonstrated the one trait picked up so clearly from their work, they really do not care what you think or feel about what they are doing. It is an American right, freedom, and perhaps even a favor, they are doing.

I found it very telling, and very sad. It answered the one burning question tho. There ARE people doing business in your neighborhood that see you as the problem. But using a bulldozer to talk is not going to get it.

BTW, the Mission of the Planning Department is this:
To provide guidance for the growth, preservation and development of the City of Raleigh in order to maintain a community of lasting value.

FYI: Fallonia also dusted off her sliderule this week to take the city data and run a calculation.

70% of the new houses on a demolition site are ITB, as per the map above. The average size of a NEW HOUSE in Raleigh is 2800 SF (97% of the new construction). The average size of an INFILL house is at least 4250 SF, according to the most generous calculations. It is not your imagination.

NEW: posts the City's presentation.


erin said...

thanks for the briefing on what went down in the meeting. RE the last fact in your post: should it be taken into consideration that the houses going onto new lots (where tree removal etc is taking place in greater numbers) are smaller than the homes going onto recycled lots? isn't it better that the new houses on new lots are significantly smaller than the infills? interested in your thoughts on that. thanks.

hoopla said...

"There ARE people doing business in your neighborhood that see you as the problem. "

The use of the word "your" is the heart of the matter in the entire debate. People only own a piece of the puzzle, rather than the puzzle itself.

"It is an American right...they are doing."

Actually this is true, unless one wants a homeowners association telling them what to do with their house. If neighbors have ownership of the neighborhood, could they not also force one to change their house in some way?

The very freedom that gives owners the right to replace their houses is the very same freedom that allows us to paint our door a unique color, cut down an ailing tree, plant a garden, fly a flag honoring a team, put storm windows on our house, have decorative mailboxes, etc. Imagine a bee-allergic neighbor banning the neighborhood from having flowers.

It's definitely a very tough debate, and there are definitely some replacements that are short on taste. However my title deed says I own my house. I can do what I want with my house, and I can't tell my next door neighbor what he has to do with his (though I would like to).

Fallonia Parker said...

My point is about respect. Is this the only business that does not require treating potential customers with respect?

spiro said...

My Dear Ms. Parker,

I suppose you would call me a bulldozer operator - and I would be proud of it if you did.

If you were a neighbor of one of my bulldozer projects I would certainly have respect for you - but I am not sure that is really all you want.

As you remember from the "Visual Preference Survey", you did not, in fact, have a choice for "yuck", only for "there is nothing wrong, the in-fill house is too big, the in-fill house is too tall, the in-fill house is too close". It is not within your purview to like or dislike how someone else's house looks. The most interesting thing about the presentation was that so many people asked for the in-fill choice to be identified because they could not tell the in-fill houses from the existing ones. So, if you can't tell an infill house from an existing one, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

You seem to want to be the arbiter of appearance, size, and cost of in-fill houses that are NOT your neighbor. You seem to want, via City Hall, to micro manage the housing affairs of Raleigh.

Your own desire for "respect" does not seem to respect the fact that my bulldozer works very hard, takes risks, and makes Raleigh a better place to live. Also, my bulldozer has preserved many existing structures.

Thanks for an entertaining blog.


Chad said...

I think it is important to note that those examples shown at the meeting are arguably some of the better examples of infill development happening. That is why the questions arose as to which house was the infill house.

If that little test they did was to be truly objective, they would have needed to present a more diverse range of infill development.