The Neighborhood Rezoning Zombie Apocalypse


Image from The Walking Dead television series, courtesy of AMC.

One of my blog readers warned me it might not be dead, but I didn’t want to hear. I plugged my ears, closed my eyes and started singing (“La la la la la…”)

But he was correct. The rezoning issue for my neighborhood wasn’t dead. It rose, like a zombie, from the Duluth City Planning Department even though the planning commission voted it down. (See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for more info about this six-month-long saga.)

As it turns out, this is common practice in my city. The planning commission actions are just considered “recommendations,” not the final word. I wish someone had explained this to us from the beginning.

Thinking you’ve won a fight only to find you need to fight it all over again is disheartening. It also seems like a waste of effort to have every zoning issue heard by two civic groups. Why even have a planning commission then?

Anyway, once I heard that the proposal to rezone our Duluth residential neighborhood for commercial development was going before the city council, I admit, I tucked my head and legs inside my shell and hid for a while. However, in hiding, I regathered my gumption and eventually fired off yet another letter of protest to the city council. But that, and writing blog posts, didn’t seem like enough.

The city council heard the issue during two meetings. I couldn’t make the first hearing (because it happened while I was being a turtle). The same couple of neighbors who spoke before the planning commission spoke before the council. I decided it would be good to add a new voice for the next meeting, and that voice should be mine. If I was going to come out of my shell, I might as well do it up good.

The city council chambers was packed – standing-room-only. Most people were there for another contentious issue that involved a proposal for a new downtown apartment building that did not have any affordable housing units included. Along with a lack of single-family homes (like those in my neighborhood), a lack of affordable housing is a big issue in our city.

The hearing for the apartment building and other city council issues took 3-1/2 hours. We sat there at 10:30 p.m., boiling in our long johns, awaiting our turn. Once the affordable housing protesters left, a good number of my neighbors remained in the chambers.

I ended up as the first signed up to speak for our issue. When my name was called, I took a big gulp, stood, and did my thing. I was too nervous to speak without notes, so I used those as an aid. They also helped me stay within the three-minute speaking limit. My speech went fine, and I was sure glad once it was over! Several other neighbors also spoke.

The city councilors asked questions and a few explained their positions. In the end, they voted UNANIMOUSLY (7-0) to reject the proposal to rezone my neighborhood. I am so thankful that they listened to us and to the planning commission.

Is the zombie rezoning war over? Not if the planning commissioner has his way. He said he plans to bring it up again in a few years because he wants to see “orderly development” of my neighborhood. We neighbors would rather see no development. We are a neighborhood that works. Like I said in my speech, our neighborhood ain’t broke, and this won’t fix it.

This fight seems to have renewed people’s appreciation for our neighborhood. This Christmas, for the first time, carolers came to my door. Another neighbor made luminaries (ice candles) and placed them all along the road to her house, providing a special festive touch.

The zombie is dead for now, but it seems as if the issue is biding its time, waiting for another chance to strike. I hope we’re ready to rally then.

Let’s have some fun with this. Feel free to comment with your favorite zombie-killing techniques. They could come in handy later!