Our opinion: Coming to terms with zoning

City Councilwoman Wendy McCain isn’t wrong to raise questions over the creation of a new mixed-use district in Warren that combined commercial and residential zoning as Warren transitions from downtown into residential neighborhoods.

McCain raised questions about the East Street School, which is close to her home. The councilwoman doesn’t want to see potential development in the school that changes the character of the neighborhood.

But, in reality, the designation isn’t the problem. How the designation is applied is what will matter.

Randy Rossey, city codes and planning director, has explained well that the area in question is already a mixed-use district as the area has changed over the years.

Downtown has crept further and further into the neighborhood, though city officials have done their best to make sure new uses conform to the old zoning requirements.

As we said, McCain is right to raise concerns. What happens with properties like the East Street School will be a test both of the new zoning guidelines but the city’s existing design standards and the approval processes the city has in place.

Zoning guidelines aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on if the city’s paid staff and appointed oversight board members don’t make sure they’re followed and if neighbors aren’t engaged to make sure their interests are represented before those who make decisions that could change a neighborhood’s character.

Changing zoning guidelines is a first step, not the final step.


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