Friday, September 15, 2006

"Historic" label dividing Tempe neighbors

[Source: Katie Nelson, Arizona Republic] -- The prospect of designating Tempe's oldest remaining neighborhood as "historic" is digging into what's already a deep divide between community members in the area. The Maple-Ash neighborhood is the fourth group to seek the city's protective measure that regulates exterior building standards to preserve its character. Opponents fear the designation will add red tape to any changes they might want to make to their homes as well as discourage developer interest in their property.

That battle has become undoubtedly the most volatile the city has seen so far, as accusations of "sensationalistic scare tactics," "bullying," "intimidation" and "political pressure" are slung. Some of the controversy is caused by the diversity of the stakeholders who live, rent, own and do business in the 338-home area, which is tucked into a corner between downtown and Arizona State University. The neighborhood's multi-family housing zoning also heightens the stakes because it is more favorable to developers, ratcheting up the property values by leaps and bounds. Add in a decades-long history of personality clashes between passionate neighbors, and it should come as no surprise that the issue is causing contention.

The groups for and against the designation have mobilized their backers. As a result, more than 75 e-mails and countless phone calls have poured in to city officials and staff from people who live in and outside of the area, hoping to sway what will ultimately be a City Council decision. So far, more than 80% of those e-mails to the city have been in favor of the designation, according to Mark Vinson, city architect and community design manager. Both the proponents and opposition have circulated mailers or fliers as well. One uses emphatic language to encourage landowners to "stop the activists," and calls the push for the measure a "backdoor scheme." [Note: To read the full article, click here.]