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Feb 01, 2008


Ryan Berube, Chair of the Maplewood Overlay Supporters

How refreshing for Mr. Kadane to finally speak out to our neighborhood. It’s too bad it had to be in a blog, as opposed to in direct response to e-mail inquiries from the “losing” party in the Maplewood Overlay. Nonetheless, I appreciate the acknowledgement, Mr. Kadane.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kadane illustrates here how misinformed he is about the NSO ordinance, and specifically about the Maplewood Overlay process. To begin with, however, allow me to highlight points on which we agree:

There are problems with the overlay process. Big ones.
The initial part that only instructs a minimum of 10 people to get together and propose an overlay without neighborhood input clearly causes huge problems by immediately alienating the rest of the neighbors who weren’t consulted. Maplewood experienced this, and subsequently eliminated the first petition. The consensus was to get the entire neighborhood's input so we sent out a neighborhood survey, constructed jointly by both the supporters and the opponents of the overlay. The results of that survey were what drove the specific parameters of the second, revised NSO petitions. The proponents of the Maplewood NSO were clearly open to doing what the neighborhood wanted.
One of the other huge problems we agree on is the complete lack of clarity as to what consists of a suitable “majority” to get the NSO passed. Sheffie has used the words “large majority” and “at least 60%”, but these measurements are not binding. The NSO, as it currently stands, permits an application for an overlay with 50% neighborhood support for all NSO parameters except height (front & side setbacks, garage access, etc), and 60% is required to apply for height. Why this isn’t the hard standard for passage by the City Council, why it is “left open” for the Council to determine is unknown but it results in a fatal flaw.
The individuals on both side of the argument are good people.
Any ordinance that, by its very design, pits neighbor against neighbor is destined for failure.

Now let’s get to the crucial points on which informed folks differ with Mr. Kadane.

1. Mr. Kadane did not even consider the ordinance that was approved and sent before him by the City Planning Commission. He instead chose to look at the unmodified “rough” initial version. If he had considered the CPC version, he had 50 homes in favor, and 30 homes against. A 62.5% majority.

2. Mr. Kadane, instead of taking what was before him individually, which was 3 zoning changes under the overlay (garage placement, corner-side yard setbacks, and median height), where he had clear majority for the first two issues (see the 50% requirement to apply for those 2 parameters above), he instead chose to deny the overlay in his entirety, instead of giving the neighborhood what it wanted. Perhaps Sheffie didn’t hear the opposition’s eloquent spokesperson, Dawn Doherty, say that the opposition didn’t have a problem passing the overlay without a height requirement. Perhaps Sheffie didn’t know that he could approve 2 of the 3 stipulations. Perhaps Sheffie didn’t hear me say that, given what I had heard in the hearing, I would be willing to sit down and negotiate with the opposition (a shift in my earlier position because of the evident negative direction the hearing was going). Perhaps Mr. Kadane simply doesn’t support overlays because, as he said to Maplewood Overlay supporters the night before the Council hearing, “builders don’t like overlays”. Which begs the question – “Why does Sheffie care about what builders think? Why doesn’t he care about what Maplewood residents think?”

3. Mr. Kadane thinks he was benevolent for merely denying the overlay “without prejudice” meaning we can bring the process back to the Council inside of 2 years. But he neglects to realize that we have to start from the very beginning, gathering petitions, having public meetings, and getting not one, but two rounds of ballots signed in order to get the Maplewood NSO (in whatever revised format) back in front of the Council. It took 12 months to get that done the first time. Who want to put another year’s worth of effort into a process that enables Sheffie to arbitrarily decide whether 60% or 65% or 75% is enough support? Perhaps Mr. Kadane didn’t realize the onus of the situation – perhaps if he had, he’d have mandated a negotiating period. Instead, he ended up throwing the baby out with the bath water.

4. If Sheffie were so concerned that passing the overlay would actually cause builders to go “out instead of up”, resulting in massive tree removals, perhaps he should have considered passing the garage placement part of the overlay, since there is no way to build a garage accessed from the street without tearing through the 35-year-old live oaks that line our streets.

5. Lastly, the Council did not vote no, Sheffie did. Every single councilperson who spoke indicated their own feelings, but said that no matter what, they would support Mr. Kadane. There WAS support from some Council members (Ms. Hunt & Ms. Garcia), but they all voted in lock-step with Sheffie. Does the NSO ordinance indicate that the final decision will be made by the City Council person representing the district? I think not. But that’s how it works, and it’s one of the fundamental problems with the NSO process. Which leads me to suggest that if the Maplewood NSO had come to the Council from another District, it quite possibly could have had a different result. Not exactly proper, I should say.

6. Lastly, if Mr. Kadane & the rest of the Council have such grave concerns about the NSO process, why did they permit this NSO to come before council, and bear the brunt of the negative feelings of the group? If only 2 of the Council members support the concept of the overlay as it’s currently reflected in the NSO, then the Maplewood NSO was doomed from the start, hence the community’s request for a refund of their application fee….

Respectfully submitted,

Ryan Berube

Chair of the Maplewood Overlay Supporters


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