Smile Politely

Zoning Issues Are Actually Very Sexy

As far as we know, Urbana’s Planning Commission doesn’t get its pockets lined with cash. Unscrupulous developers don’t buy votes here. Maybe in Champaign, but not Urbana.

Thursday night, the Urbana Commission will consider a proposal to restrict the construction of impersonal apartment buildings. Here’s the News-Gazette story about it.

Basically, Urbana is going to encourage the people who take care of neighborhoods (homeowner occupants) to stay in those neighborhoods, and keep them nice. The loser in this battle is the slumlord, who knocks down old houses to make way for cheap apartment buildings.
Urbana let this happen in decades past, and today’s overflowing trash bins are the visible consequence. The invisible consequence is the loss of fantastic old houses, and the emergence of ugly, shitty apartment buildings.

Stand anywhere in the 500 block of Elm Street, and you won’t see what I mean. Sol Cohen’s old house at 511 isn’t there anymore. Nor is the old Baha’i mansion at 503. The old Victorian at 506 was supplanted by an exceptionally ugly, blue apartment complex.

Consider how lucky we are to live in a city whose public officials concern themselves with quality-of-life issues. If you can’t fully appreciate the consequences of the alternative, just read this outrageous story in today’s Chicago Tribune. There’s more money to go around in Chicago, so the homeowner gets screwed royally, and the developer reaps a windfall.

Sorry, your little slice of heaven is standing in the way of my huge profits.

Thursday afternoon, evening, night etc. will be an excellent time to survey neighborhood disruption wrought by high-density rental units. It’s move-in day, all over campus. So far, I have not found any warnings — from emergency response officials — to just stay indoors. But it’s not bad advice. If you absolutely have to drive across campus, give yourself an extra hour.

“Zoning ordinance,” and “municipal code,” are pretty far down on most Lists of Provocative Terms. Ménage à trois, for example, gets a lot more hoopla. But I contend that for everyday purposes, zoning and code issues are a whole lot more exciting.

In my immediate neighborhood, for example, there’s only one rental unit. It’s also the only household whose residents regularly park on the lawn.

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