Letter to the editor: Afraid of change?

As a resident of St. Anthony Park since 1964, my answer is “No.” But I want to understand the impact of the proposed “change,” in this case, “granny flats” and rental apartments within existing homes. (The latter was restricted in 1975. Current proponents ignore the rationale for that decision.)

Consider the following:

Proponents keep changing the target. If the zoning proposal passes, one could build, for example, a second “house” of 950 square feet on a 40- x 125-foot lot that already has a 1,100-square-foot home sitting on it. (The adorable “granny flat” pictured on the District 12 website is more like a stylized garden shed; a ruse.) Originally the proposal called for the second house to be 850 square feet and located only in the back yard; now it would be OK in the side or front yard.

Proponents say they want to keep seniors in their homes. These are personal family decisions that each of us needs to make: We will all leave some day, one way or another. Luther Seminary is selling two apartment structures and is looking into providing additional housing alternatives for the neighborhood on their properties. Current zoning already allows for multiple-use housing along Como Avenue with its convenient shops and transportation. And our excellent block-nursing program helps stabilize the elderly population. What does a two-house lot or a rooming house do to neighbors’ home values? Having to buy two houses instead of one, or having to buy a house that needs to be restored because it has been converted into two residences, will reduce the pool of future potential homebuyers. Do most homebuyers today want to be a home-owner and a landlord?

Proponents advocate for the owner not to have to continuously live on the property, now with two homes, as he or she may be away for an extended period of time to care for an ailing relative, to be on sabbatical or due to a change of employment. Extreme I know, but sometimes your view is distorted when belly down on your sled flying down a “slippery slope.”

The current proposal allows for input by adjacent neighbors to a building plan for only one year after the law goes into effect. After that, the neighbors have no say whatsoever. The proposal does not address the issue of additional parking. Although not well-versed on the “carbon imprint” issue, I think it is a slim argument at best.

The history of this proposal is not that clear to most in St. Anthony Park. I do not fault the half-dozen or so folks who want to execute their current building plans, who want to live in a different kind of abode for a variety of reasons. But we must recognize that it is “their” self-interest plan—not ours. That could have a significant impact on the entire area for decades to come. It is easy for proponents to describe the benefits for themselves. It is much more challenging to define the immediate benefits for the rest of us, especially the long-range ones.

St. Anthony Park is an island of excellence in a sea of the ordinary. I will not elaborate on its positive characteristics. Just think back to why you chose to live here. That is the answer as to why the zoning proposal should be defeated.

A neighbor asked me where I would move if I left my house. If I do not go out feet first, there are a number of possibilities. However, one is not to live in my back, front or side yard 25 to 50 feet from either of my children, who currently live six and 13 minutes away and have families and lives of their own. (I love them dearly but had a hard enough time getting them to take out the garbage decades ago.)

I, at age 78, will stay as long as I can. But this is not the only great place to live in the world. I will survive.

People of St. Anthony Park know why they live here. The overwhelming majority like it the way it is and see no reason to “fix” that which is not broken. That doesn’t mean we don’t want change: It means we want good change. We are not looking at putting in a new stop sign or prohibiting parking on one side of a street.

The interests of the opponents of this change are just as valid, if not more so, as the interests of the proponents. The opponents have a wider field of vision that includes the entire community over time; not just the here and now.

And please to do not tell me I am “afraid of change” as some proponents have accused people who question the wisdom of such a wide-ranging proposal. It is quite insulting.

Jack Neely, St. Anthony Park

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