by Jan Schmidt – Finance and Administrative Services Director
Early summer in Salida is a wonderful time of year. The trees have leaves once again and many gardens are coming into bloom. During the FIBArk festival and other summer events yet to come, many of us, locals and visitors alike, will travel along F Street between Highway 50 and our historic downtown. This is a great time of year to travel those 11 blocks and enjoy the outstanding collection of historic homes.
In recent weeks the F Street corridor and adjacent E and G Streets have made the news regularly as the city reviewed proposals to create a new historic district on the F Street corridor and rezone a larger area from R-2 to R-1. These applications were submitted by property owners in the neighborhood in the spirit of trying to maintain the character that we all enjoy today.
Here at city hall we heard a lot of opinions about the applications both in support and against. We also answered a lot of questions about what the proposed changes would mean for individual properties and the neighborhood as a whole. Of the people who spoke during the formal public hearings there was seemingly equal support for both sides of the discussion.
People in the west are passionate about property rights, especially when their home is affected. In the case of these applications, it was often a debate over an individual’s right to do as they wished with their own property versus what expectation they should have for what could be done on neighboring properties. These are both legitimate concerns.
We all desire the freedom to express ourselves including through the design of our homes and landscapes. At the same time, we want some assurance that the investment in our homes is protected from inappropriate development in the surrounding area. Planning and historic preservation are often challenged with finding the right balance for the community between these sometimes competing goals.
In the case of the F Street applications the process was working. The neighborhood was engaged in a lively dialogue that will likely continue into the future as we see more changes in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, at some point some of our neighbors opposed to the applications chose to verbally assault and even threaten the applicants. As a result, the applications were withdrawn.
My husband and I live on F Street and when I ride my bike to work every morning I admire the pride that is displayed in the fine homes and the well maintained yards of my neighborhood. I was gratified with the calls and attendance by my neighbors at meetings while the community discussed these applications. But I was disgusted and dismayed when I heard that some had sunk to the level of verbal assaults and even threats over the issue.
I encourage each of you to take the opportunity during this lovely season to travel around this neighborhood and be reminded that those applications were submitted in the spirit of protecting the splendid character of what you see. Whether you agree that they had proposed the best method or not, those who proposed to create a new historic district and rezone the area were acting with the best intentions and the support of many neighbors and they deserve to be treated with respect.
I was impressed by the numbers of concerned property owners who attended the numerous meetings held to discuss the present and future of this neighborhood. It is a testament to our community that so many of you chose to participate in this discussion. I hope that in the future as this dialogue continues that every opinion will be respected and that each participant will be treated with the deference that we all deserve.