Wednesday, October 05, 2005

LPDS Redux

Ok, so last night my partner in crime, who was home watching on the tele whilst I was in a cramped back row seat in city hall, needing to pee (I must say that I think I've got a better handle on why "potty parity" became an issue in the Commission now; the bathrooms in city hall are unisex, and I'm sorry ladies, but in that situation y'all tend to monopolize) and sporting a stylish yellow LPDS t-shirt, provided the play-by-play and dare I say some color as well. It is my intention now to provide some post-game analysis. I am going to try to step back, be objective, and heed Commissioner Dodson's call to get rid of the emotion and "see the forest and the trees".

The best way I can think of to do this is to talk about some different areas of broad observation that I made. These are in no particular order, other than the order they occurred to me.

I was actually somewhat surprised at how quickly race was alluded to in the meeting. One of the first speakers said that "if that was the reason(for the opposition, those opposed) should be ashamed of themselves". Others mentioned that they hoped the opposition was not because of the "fear of the unknown", etc. The opponents of course staunchly, and somewhat defensively I think (although I can't necessarily blame them after being accused of racism), denied all such implications.

Perhaps the allegations in this respect from the pro side did go too far. It probably would have been better to focus on the positive reasons to allow the rezoning, which for the most part the pro speakers did actually. Although I can't completely remove the possibility that it does play some small part in this in my own mind, I'm going to take the opponents at their word and assume this is not racially motivated. Doing so allows the focus to remain on the merits of the rezoning itself, which I think cuts in favor of LPDS if properly considered.

The proximity of Cedars Shoals High School to this establishment that will be serving alcoholic beverages with dinner has always been one of the, well, sillier issues, as one speaker said, in this whole thing (I liked the speaker who said that she was sure Bruno planned to card his patrons just like any other business). I won't rehash the rebuttal argument (the nearness of other alcohol-serving establishments, etc., etc.). I will simply say that this argument really does seem like a red herring thrown in to appeal to emotion. To the opponents credit, at the meeting they mostly abandoned this argument in favor of the general issues of spot zoning, the inappropriateness of this type of development for the location, and the precedent for future development; all of which I'll come to later.

These issues are similar to the alcohol one, except that they have a higher degree of merit under these particular facts. If LPDS created substantial burdens in these areas, each would be a valid reason to oppose it. The problem is, for the most part these concerns have been addressed in the Planning Commission, and the reality is that LPDS is not likely to cause even a noticeable increase in any of these areas, except for those directly adjacent to the property. Those are NOT the neighborhoods making so much noise against LPDS; rather those are apartment complexes, like Tivoli across the street. Having no concrete evidence either way, I'm going to engage in speculation and suggest that the occupants of those apartment complexes would overwhelmingly support this dining and entertainment option within walking distance. Having also lived in Tivoli, I'll also suggest that those in the apartments are used to the noise and traffic, thank you very much. A very modest increase will likely not be noticed.

It would be a mistake to similarly discard these issues as "silly", though. They actually make up the bread and butter of why several of the Commissioners who would otherwise support LPDS are hesitating (e.g., Jordan, Dodson to some extent, and maybe Chasteen). In other words, the "swing" vote may be won or lost on these issues. Any emails pointing out good factual points about these issues to these and all of the Commissioners (well, not States, he's vested) would be a good thing.

95% of what? said what? My favorite exchange of the night was Commissioner Carter "weighing" the evidence and counting his emails to rebut States' survey. While we agree with States that Carter's evidence is not scientific by any means, with all due respect neither is States. He revealingly stated later that the "95%" was 19 out of 20 people. How were these 20 people chosen? Was the sample representative of any population, let alone the relevant one? By the way, what is the relevant one? Athens? The East Side? residents along Cedars Shoals Drive? Cedar Creek residents (which I think is actually where all 20 came from)?

As to the petitions, there are accounts of people being brow-beaten into opposing LPDS, and doing so after being fed grossly inaccurate facts, such as Bruno intends to open a night club in their neighborhood. I don't know if these accounts are true, but I'd like to hear from some of the signers as to the circumstances under which the petition was circulated. A couple of the pro speakers did in fact mention that they were speaking in support after having previously signed the petition opposing LPDS.

While we're doing surveys of not necessarily representative populations, let's take a look at the 3 minute speakers at the meeting. By my count, there were 20 in favor, 6 against, and 1 "concerned". This does not count Bruno or the head of the Cedar Creek Assoc.; technically that would add 1 each to the for and against categories. This sample is at least as good as States', and it says that about 75% are in favor. Oh, and by the way, somewhere close to half of those in favor (unfortunately I failed to get an exact count) lived in either Cedar Creek or other nearby neighborhoods, and almost all of them were from the east side.

Ultimately, while the opinion of those most affected by the decision should certainly be considered with great weight, let's be careful about how we define that group, and let's actually make an honest attempt to ascertain what that opinion is.

This is one of the opponents more legitimate points. All of the hand-wringing on other issues aside, this is a spot zone. The ACC government is being asked to change the rules for one development. We agree with the opponents that this is not something that we should be in the habit of doing a lot. Routine spot zoning renders the whole concept of zoning meaningless.

That being said, LPDS is the iconic example of why spot zoning should be allowed in certain instances. The lot has already been rezoned for Cofer's. As Commissioner Hoard verified, any new development would require rezoning. In other words, for ANY OTHER BUSINESS to go in the Cofer's lot, except for an identical greenhouse, a spot zoning is gonna have to happen. The options therefore are 1) let it sit there empty or 2) decide what the best development option is, and go for it. Perhaps the original Cofer's rezoning was a mistake, as States suggested. However, that toothpaste is out of the tube, and we've got to figure out the best way to go forward. I think it's LPDS, hands down.

The other related argument from the opponents is that granting this rezone will set a precedent for other similar proposed developments to take over Cedar Shoals Drive. Again, if this were true, it would certainly present a problem. The problem with this argument is that it is essentially a slippery slope argument. Just because this rezoning is granted doesn't mean the entire street is destined to be rezoned. Each rezoning request would present its own set of facts to be weighed by the M&C, and no future set of facts will the same as these. There is only one Cofer's sitting vacant to be redeveloped; there is only one Bruno Rubio. If this is really the concern (and I think it is for many of those opposed), I respectfully suggest to those holding such concern to relax, and don't fear change so much. It can be good. Which leads me into my last segment (I think).

Specifically those of the two groups, the pro and the con. Aside from Bruno himself, and the Latin theme of LPDS and the cultural enrichment it promises, let's look at the group of pro speakers. There were whites, blacks, Hispanics, and other nationalities represented. There were young and old. There were those of different classes.

The opposed group was all older, white, probably fairly well to do (judging by the fact that they own homes in Cedar Creek) people. I point this out not to bring the race debate back up, but merely as a sociological observation. What is it about moving in to that group that makes people become so conservative? I use "conservative" in the classical definitional sense, not the political sense. This group of people really dislikes change, and seems to shy away from the different and the unknown. I honestly hope for myself, and I'm not just saying this, that I can avoid that metamorphisis when I reach that stage of life. I hope I will always be the kind of person that would embrace something like LPDS with open arms.

Oh well, all of this typing, and all we got was a 9-0 table vote. That means you get to hear about it from us for another month. That's probably just as well, cause I'm sure I missed something in this nonetheless God-awfully long post (sorry bout that, by the way).

That's it for now.


RandomThoughts said...

I apprediate the long post and the insight into what really was going on.

My question is, what should be done now and by whom?

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

I would say that what is to be done now is for the LPDS gang and anyone else who feels strongly enough about it to continue to communicate with the M&C regarding the issues as I've outlined them. I would also caution anyone engaging in such communication to avoid the vitriolic comments and the side issues like race and alcohol. What the M&C needs is answers to the relevant questions, mainly the ones I mentioned: noise, traffic, lighting, etc., and also an honest to goodness idea of the level of support in the area. I don't know if it's possible at this stage of the game, but I'd really like to see the results of a legitimate, scientific poll of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Jmac said...

I think it's possible to do a poll. It's just that someone needs to do it ... invest the time to go door-to-door and get some answers. I imagine it's closer to 50-50 or 60-40 either way than the absurd 95 percent that opposed that States offered.

But that's a good strategy, I think. If you win the arguments concerning traffic and noise, then by default the opposition will appear to be basing their beliefs on something like race or alcohol sales (rightly or wrongly).

RandomThoughts said...

I guess what I was really asking was isn't it the responsibility of the owner to do this sort of stuff? I have heard a lot on this blog about the project, and I know the owner gave an information party, but is the person most involved with this doing what needs to be done? Or should he be offered some advice from someone who knows what is needed?

LPDS said...

We are planning on going door to door (among other approaches), and trying to get a bit better organized now. I will be sending an email to the Dist. List by tomorrow with details of our plans.

RandomThoughts said...

Great! I wish you the very best of luck.

I'm glad you have bloggers, etc. supporting you but that door-to-door contact will win or lose in the end.

Anonymous said...

I dont have to say or comment anything else about this whole matter other than I agree with your completed statement..let's leave politics aside and let the lord made this decision, and punish those who unpurposely opposed this opportunity to learn more about not just food, but the latin culture...modest aside...let me end by saying this: it does not matter who you are,how much you know,how much you have,what did you do or dont but when we leave this earth,we are all equally brothers and son's of "God".thanks
christian .706-207-8975

Anonymous said...

Come on people what the crap is this ..what are we doing and where are we going to, we all know that these commissioner's have to follow what's bets for the community, but when one or two tainted a document for their own will of interest, we cannot agree with this ruling, regarding your age,status or comfort of living.please read this and support this rezoning now, by just saying without fear whats in your mind, this is a country with the freedom of speach, dont be afraid.thanks