Along with the finally warming temps, two opportunities for change are in the air these days. 

Recently, the Transition Town Housing group has posted a draft ordinance on the D12 website concerning the zoning variance necessary to allow properties that have appropriate size and site considerations to add an Adjacent Dwelling Unit. This link will take you to the draft ordinance and a lot of info about the whole proposal. The neighbors on the Housing Committee have been looking at ADU's as a way to offer spaces for people interested in aging in place, downsizing or just seeking smaller houses.

There are pros and cons which have been expressed at the meetings, with the most prevalent con being the idea that this will happen in a significant number of lots in our neighborhood and destroy our lovely character. It would be worthwhile to know how many lots in our neighborhood would actually qualify. My guess is that we are talking about several properties a year at most, with a finite ceiling which would ultimately involve a very small percentage of our lots. 

Tomorrow night the Luther Seminary folks are attending the District 12 Land Use Committee meeting (at 7pm SSA Rec Center) to talk more about the potential sale of their property along Eustis. They will probably echo the information they shared in the article that appeared in the March Bugle, but they will answer whatever questions asked of them to the best of their abilities.

There are also concerns from some about development on the Seminary property and how that will also change the landscape forever. Again, if more buildings come to Luther Seminary, they will not turn the campus overnight into downtown Chicago.

It is always relevant to consider worst case scenarios, but not at the expense of a reasoned understanding of current and future realities.

You've seen the t-shirts that say "Change or Die"? The way we live as Americans is not sustainable. We have to decrease our carbon footprint if we stand a chance of remaining on this planet. I don't think there are many in our community who would disagree. A multiple dwelling unit leads, on average, to a lower carbon footprint. That's essential.

Here are a couple other realities.
1. We are landlocked in north St. Anthony Park. Go west and there's 280. Go east and there's the University and state fair. Go north and you hit a golf course and ag fields. Go south and you hit RR tracks. Not much room available for new buildings.

2. We love our schools. Under the new public school plan, it is harder to bring in students from other neighborhoods. Our schools' strength and permanence is tied to maintaining student population. Right now it's not a problem. Will it be in the future? Hard to predict. But I know this, they don't close down schools like they did just across the border in Mpls if they have too many kids.

3. We love our retailers. They need customers to survive. Will development of other shopping options on the Green Line mean less traffic for our Como merchants? Hard to predict, but have you had a conversation with any of them that wish they had less business?

4. Over 30% of our population is 45 or older. About 1500 neighbors are over 55. That's a lot of empty nesters and seniors looking for houses now and in the immediate future. We have a few places that hold 20-30. We have Coffman if you have a connection to the U of M. Can you think of anywhere for those people to live other than in their current houses? I can and it's a recurring nightmare: somewhere else. And with them they will take their expertise, their time, their understanding of community and their financial support of our non-profits and for-profits. Ask any non-profit leader to tell you the age of their biggest portion of donors. It's 55 and up.

5. 10% of our population is between 35-44. It's critical for the life of our community to have more housing options for younger families (see #2.) Multiple housing can offer a range of options for singles, couples, old, young...and that's the kind of intergenerational, diverse economical mix that keeps a community vibrant.

Change can be hard. I remember when the new bank building was proposed and there were some who thought it was the end of life as we knew it. Maybe people have just learned to live with it, but I don't hear any negative comments anymore. In fact, just the opposite, now I hear from people who love it. It represents new energy in our community and that is attractive to new businesses and residents. Did Peapods and the Colossal come here because of the new bank building alone? No, but it did send the message that this was a community that had life.

Like Rick, and the Sunrise Banks, the Seminary leaders and the folks behind the ADU's love this community and want to the right thing by it. They live and/or work here and plan on keeping their institutions and making their homes here for a long time. They have moved forward in a respectful way, communicating with the neighborhood and working to address neighborhood needs and sensitivities. 

For those who think this neighborhood is great just the way it is, think back on our history. Think of some of those things that make it great: our schools, playgrounds, even the sidewalks that make it walkable. They weren't always here and like the Sunrise Bank, every single one of them was opposed by individuals or groups that felt they would destroy this neighborhood forever. I wasn't around, but my guess is that many of the houses we live in today were not welcomed by neighbors who saw their views and geenspace threatened.

The greatness of this community is not in its physical structures. It's in its willingness to keep working together through the disagreements to reach consensus. To come back together as a community to support those things that matter, like values. A wise elder stateswoman in our neighborhood was once asked by a judgmental younger neighbor about the design merits of the new house built next to hers. "What do you think of that?" he said with a raised eyebrow. "I think they are wonderful neighbors." She replied. Point made. Lucky us, we have wonderful neighbors in St Anthony Park.

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a wonderful neighbor.