Goodwill-store protest shows how neighborhood activism works

Goodwill-store protest shows how neighborhood activism works

By Diana Whittle

When Goodwill Stores announced plans to
open a sales and donation outlet in the McClintock
Fountains center at Warner and McClintock in
Tempe, neighbors were quick to voice their concerns.
Residents who live in several subdivisions near
the center, including Sunburst Farms, Alta Mira and
Circle G Ranches, met with the center’s leasing agent
and representatives of Goodwill, according to Sandy
Swanson, a 37-year resident of Tempe.
Swanson said she first learned about Goodwill’s
intentions while attending a public hearing on
another matter. Her concerns led her to contact
Wrangler News via email and ask about the
possibility of media coverage.
“There are already Goodwill locations within
a few miles of the proposed store, and the business
does not seem to fit with the demographics of the
area,” she noted in her email.
In the end, though, Goodwill’s application for
a use permit was dropped by the organization, its
spokesman noting they had decided to pursue other
locations.
The process, however, has once again raised the
question of how those in a community can effectively
become involved in planning decisions before they
are made.
In other words: Can neighborhood groups really
impact change?
For Shannon Jallow, the manager of McClintock
Fountains, the public response to Goodwill was a
double-edged sword.
“Goodwill’s decision to not move forward with
their store in this location was in large part due to
the residents’ reaction. They also hoped to be up
and running within 60 days and an appeal process
with the city would have extended beyond that
timeframe.”
Jallow has heard from several residents who
are pleased at Goodwill’s decision to pursue another
location, but she does have concerns that residents
might have the impression that they can pick and
choose every business that wants to locate in their
neighborhood.
Swanson’s feels more positive to the process and
her answer is “yes,” particularly because this isn’t the
first time she’s encountered a proposed development
that ran contrary to the desires of nearby residents.
“When we purchased our first home in south
Tempe, in 1976 in Sunburst Farms, the area south
of the canal was zoned one home per acre,” recalls
Swanson.
“At that time, this area was alfalfa fields
surrounding the neighborhoods on 71st Street, Buena
Vista, Calle de Caballos and Sunburst Farms.”
That quickly changed, though, she said.
“When the city plan changed the zoning to
higher density in south Tempe, we residents found
ourselves at many hearings to insulate ourselves
in Sunburst Farms. We managed to get the
developers of the property north of Sunburst to put
in approximately one-acre lots backing up to our
subdivision; then they had higher density in the
remainder of the development.
“And, when a local dairy was sold, the
developers wanted to put in more than 20 homes
on the 10 acres. Again, residents of Sunburst Farms
fought back and got them to put in only 13 lots, now
known as Shady Lane.”
Swanson and her Sunburst Farms neighbors
were an early example of public participation, before
the phrase became common vernacular among
community activists.
Now an entire global organization, the
International Association of Public Participation
exists to iron out complex disagreements between
developers and residents.
The organization defines public participation
as a means to involve those who are affected by
what occurs as part of the decision-making process.
It promotes sustainable actions by providing
participants with the guidance they need to become
involved in a meaningful way, and it communicates
to participants how their input affects the decision.
The practice of public participation might
involve public meetings, surveys, open houses,
workshops, polling, citizen’s advisory committees
and other forms of direct involvement
with the public.
In the development industry, the
thorny issues that develop, along with
the contrary attitudes of neighbors,
are known as NIMBYs—”Not In My
Backyard.”
In Tempe, a well-organized
Neighborhood Services Division has
adopted the standards used by IAP2,
as well as a 54-page guide entitled
“Tempe Involving the Public,” which
is available to be downloaded from the
city’s website.
In addition, Amanda Nelson,
public information officer for
Community Development in Tempe,
says that the city’s notification process
on upcoming projects is outlined in the
Zoning and Development Code, which
also can be found on-line.
“Certain projects are required to
provide public notification through a
sign posted on the site and mailings
to neighbors close to the project,”
said Nelson. “Other projects are
not required to provide such a
notification.”
And, if residents have a
disagreement with a specific project
or type of business proposal, they can
testify at a hearing of the decisionmaking
body.
“It depends upon the type of
permit or action, but the decision
body can be the hearing officer,
Development Review Commission or
City Council,” said Nelson.
A new way for Tempe residents
to share their thoughts on local
development is the Character Area
project, which recently was launched
to involve sections of the city that
share a commonality of interests,
demographics and needs.
“Each character area may have
issues distinct to their neighborhood,
so what is important for one character
area may not be for another, “said
Nelson.
Eventually, the character area
plans will incorporate issues, needs
and desires through consensus
building.
“If a character area plan identifies
the type or mix of businesses desired
or unwanted, then the city has the
ability through Economic Development
to attract and through Community
Development to encourage or
discourage new uses consistent with
the Character Area Plan,” explained
Nelson.
“For example, if a development
goes to the Development Review
Commission, the DRC can look to the
Character Area plan for guidance in making their
decision as well,” said Nelson.
“The Character Area plan becomes the
communication tool to inform developers of
neighborhood expectations of design style, visual
character, walking and biking connections, street
appearance, uses, amenities, public spaces (parks,
schools, city services and facilities), pubic art, public
involvement, etc. “
The Character Areas project is also outlined on
the city’s website, and if the process sounds a little
complex, Tempe staff insist that they are at the ready
to explain the importance that they, the mayor and
City Council put on public input.
Swanson agrees that it’s vital for neighbors to
make their feelings known to elected officials and
developers.
“I feel that the public needs to understand that
you must fight for what you have, or want, or you will
lose it because of apathy. We must be an informed
citizenry to maintain our neighborhoods.”

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