To say this summer there has brought a strange confluence of event is a huge understatement.
There is however one local convergence that has gone under the radar, but deserves a quick examination.
Marysville City Council is coming to the end of a years-long process to update the city’s zoning code. The code will bring Marysville’s zoning into the 21st Century and bring it in line with the city’s comprehensive plan. The code establishes boundaries for things like commercial, industrial, residential districts. It will establish the height of your fence and the material for your roof. It will dictate how big your yard and what happens if you want to relocate your shed. It establishes where offices should go, and where apartments must locate, where drive through restaurants need to be and where bars and live music is permitted.
All of these seemingly trivial things have a profound impact on how, where and when a community grows.
And here is the convergence.
This summer, homeowners near the proposed Leon’s Garage expansion were understandably upset. They wanted to know how Leon’s could expand, how the restaurant could have live entertainment. They wanted city officials to stop it and protect their way of life. They accused the restaurant owner and the city of hiding something.
But the thing is, the expansion already has the proper zoning. Business officials do not need additional permission from the city or the neighbors. The property was correctly zoned and through that appropriate zoning, had already been given permission to build the venue.
And this is why zoning is important. This is why city officials and those in the know work so hard to get residents to pay attention to things like zoning codes and design standards. It is why there are public hearings and open houses for zoning changes. It is why the newspaper continues to run stories about the code and maps of the new zones.
It is always frustrating to me to listen as folks say “No one told us…” despite the newspaper carrying the information. I was in Jerome Township several years ago as members of the public railed against the proposed FedEx distribution center. The residents argued that trustees and the company were trying to sneak it through and no one had told them. On my tablet, I retrieved an electronic copy of the newspaper which had a six-column headline, a photo that covered much of the top half of the paper and a story detailing what was happening as well as studied information about the result.
The residents told me they don’t take the paper. It is the response we often get when people are informed that the newspaper ran a story detailing the thing they are now upset about.
That argument is akin to complaining that they have nothing to eat at their home when they refuse to go to a grocery store.
My wife tells me that writing this column is preaching to the choir, that if you are reading this paper, I don’t need to convince you of the value of local information. But I do need your help getting the information out. Next time you read one of these stories and wonder why the paper spends so much time covering a zoning code amendment or so much of the routine business of running a city, think about what the story means for you and your neighbors. Share that information with your neighbors and tell them where you got it.
-Mac Cordell is a reporter for the Journal-Tribune.
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