Not in My Backyard | Community Spirit
Having a background in real estate, I pay attention when I see rezoning notices posted. However, early this summer, my neighbors in Country Club Estates and I were surprised to receive a notice from a local developer in our mailboxes. It seems one of our grocery stores, Food City, would like to relocate across AJ Highway and build a new store.
The problems are great as the site presents many development issues. The issues that really impacted the neighborhood though, were the desire to add an entrance to this store from a street that cannot handle the increased traffic due to safety issues, drainage/storm water problems with the site and the fact that the developer desires to put this grocery store only 125 +/- feet from the neighbors yards.
After much wrangling and a great education in local government processes, the neighborhood has succeeded on some levels. However, they are insistent that this store should be moved closer to the highway and away from their backyards. The developer flatly refuses to do so. As a result, the adjoining property owners have invoked a seldom to never used clause in our charter (the one I have termed the "Not in My Backyard Clause") that requires a 4/5 confirmation vote of City Council if at least 20% of property owners in the area oppose a rezoning. This means that instead of a simple majority to pass this measure that would allow first the rezoning and then the building of the store, 4 of the 5 council members who can vote on this project will have to agree to approve the development. As of yet, we have not seen that 4 are willing to support the project. I suspect that the City Council meeting on Tuesday will be quite interesting as both sides are resolute in their positions.
Without question, this summer has been one of the most enlightening times I can remember. Our teenager and one of his friends accompanied us to a city council meeting and spoke out against a proposed ordinance that was "bundled" together with others and needed further evaluation. The result was that they were successful and the changes implemented were very beneficial. They learned that by researching the issues and speaking intelligently on those issues that even teenagers can have a positive effect on their government. I have realized many things about my city, some good some not so good, that I just did not take the time to consider until they affected me. This is unacceptable. We live in a state that has an effective "sunshine law" and it is up to every citizen to be a part of the process. We should not just elect our representatives and then sit by and allow them to govern unchecked. They are human, too, and can benefit greatly from positive involvement and a different perspective. This is our responsibility.
I believe I have benefited from this experience because I now take the time to truly get involved in my city. I have been blessed with new friendships and some in city government have earned my respect and gratitude. It's too easy to sit back and criticize the state of our cities and towns without taking even one moment to become involved. If 2 high school students can encourage government to re-evaluate an ordinance and make changes based on their research, certainly we can all do our homework and do the same. I will be at our City Council meeting on Tuesday and I sincerely hope that others begin to take the time to attend, too.