Thursday, April 27, 2006
Speech to the American Fork City Council, April 23, 2006
Editor's Note: Several years ago, the residents of a block in downtown American Fork got together and persuaded their City Council to zone their block as single-family residential, in order to preserve the residential and historic character of the block. So when the proposed rezoning of a lot on that block to allow construction of a fourplex appeared on the City Council's agenda for Tuesday evening, a number of those residents appeared at the meeting. One of them was Ken Draper, who read this prepared statement. When he was finished, the room erupted into an ovation. Ken has graciously given permission to publish his remarks here. Note that he actually mentions two of the Council's action items that evening; the first concerns another property about two blocks away. As it happens, the Council is now considering a moratorium such as he recommends; its maximum legal length is six months.
Twenty years ago we bought a house that most people would have thought should have been bulldozed and had something new put in its place. When we moved in, all the light fixtures had been stripped from the ceilings, and all the cabinet doors were gone. Most of the electrical plugs in the house were black, and the only working water was a small trickle in the bathtub.
Where others saw junk, we saw potential. With love and time we brought this house back to life. Recently a neighbor told us our house was so charming it belonged in a Thomas Kinkade painting.
Where others see junk I see that same potential for the historic downtown area of American Fork. I envision neighborhoods with well-maintained historic homes, mingled with new development that pays tribute to our historic past. I see a Main Street with eclectic shops and restaurants, and with a corner diner where the waitress knows me by name. I see a mom-and-pop hardware store, where the owner knows exactly the right part I need to fix a leaky tap, and then tells me the easiest way to install the washer is to stick it on the end of a pencil. I want to buy yogurt at a place were they make homemade meat pies, and go to the movies at a place we lovingly call "the sticky shoe." I want a Main Street where on summer evenings the local people wander the sidewalks to window shop and meet and mingle.
Today I will watch as the City allows a historic home to be torn down and a retail shop built in its place, even though three blocks to the east are hundreds of square feet of empty retail space.
Today the City is considering rezoning an area in my neighborhood that will allow more high density housing to be built -- just a block away from a large apartment complex that is the already the shame of the neighborhood, a place where no one in the area will allow their children to play. I know that [the developer] has the best intention for building a complex that will be a benefit to the neighborhood, but in the end money or the lack thereof will control both the quantity and quality of the units built on that parcel.
I would ask the city to put a moratorium on zoning changes in the downtown area until a comprehensive plan is put in place that would force developers to build structures that enhance and blend in with the historic nature of the downtown area.
Copyright 2006 by Ken Draper.