Tuesday, October 23, 2007

South Hill Neighborhood: Views Become Vision

Last night the South Hill Neighborhood got some view protection as an official part of its Neighborhood Plan.

The Bellingham City Council approved that new policy last night, after reviewing the results of 18 months of effort and hearing many South Hill residents testify in support of it as one way to help preserve the Neighborhood's character.

This new policy doesn't actually change development regulations, but it does condition future development to the extent it represents the legitimate concerns of current residents, businesses and property owners.

And, it initiates the dialogue about what rules might be changed in the future to protect views, not only in South Hill, but other neighborhoods as well.

View preservation is one of those discussions that applies city wide in one way or another,

And, its a discussion the city needs to take to the next level, so everyone has fair a share in determining City policy.

Some thought the measure presented didn't go far enough.

Others thought it went too far.

Still others preferred to wait until a 'comprehensive' measure was developed and agreed to.
That one sounded like more of an attempt to not do anything for a long time!

But, all of these opinions had some merit!

By the advocates own admission the measure neglected to address some major issues that impact view preservation.

Some of the more obvious omissions like trees & vegetation [which grow according nature's rules],
and solar access [whether the sun is shining or not, there are stars, weather/clouds and birds in the air].

Also, different people have their own definitions of what 'view' means to them!

Like beauty, 'view' is often in the eyes of the beholder!

Those are serious omissions that will need to be addressed at other times and in other venues.

But, I say let this discussion begin!

The City has fretted about these discussions for years without doing much about having them.

It's past time for these discussions to happen!

The City's enabling of its neighborhoods to initiate such discussions was a wise thing to do.

Now, that the neighborhoods are having such discussions, it is wise of the City to listen!

They are doing the type of critical, grassroots work that is necessary to forge City policy that works.

Without this type of effort, these discussions would likely continue to languish, until some staffer got time to fit it in.

But, the City doesn't have enough staffers to do the work we have, in a consistent and timely fashion.

That means to me that subjects like view preservation, despite the talk, have a de facto low priority.

If the Neighborhoods want to assign a higher priority to view preservation, why not let them do it?

Is the view protection language generated by South Hill perfect?

No, but its a good start.

Is this view protection language controversial?

You bet it is! That's why addressing it earlier rather than later is better.

Is this view protection language comprehensive?

No, but it gets the process started, and sometimes inertia represents the biggest hurdle in such matters.

I hope other Neighborhoods will take heart in this early success and be encouraged to add to it from their own perspectives.

That way, we can slowly build a more comprehensive body of information to represent common Neighborhood values that will do nothing but help us in the future.

Thanks, South Hill!

Keep up the good work.