What is a neighborhood, anyway? And what does it have to do with sustainability?
A website defines neighborhood as follows:
The term neighborhood has many meanings and uses. For example, neighborhood can be used to refer to the small group of houses in the immediate vicinity of one's house or to a larger area with similar housing types and market values.On September 7 and 8, 2011, my neighborhood of Westover, near Johnson City, flooded due to two tropical storms just a few days apart, dropping a total of 13 inches of rain and capping the rainiest summer on record.
Neighborhood is also used to describe an area surrounding a local institution patronized by residents, such as a church, school, or social agency. It can also be defined by a political ward or precinct. The concept of neighborhood includes both geographic (place-oriented) and social (people-oriented) components.
Many houses were ruined and were abandoned. Earlier this year, demolition began, finally, of once cherished houses that were now only rotting eyesores. Some 44 houses in Westover will eventually be torn down, if I read this report correctly. By law, the land those houses sat on must remain undeveloped, or developed into something like a park or other green land.
In a meeting I attended last year, speakers explained that demolition, if not done right, can ruin a neighborhood. What will be left, after the demolition, is some streets with only a couple of occupied houses, and large gaps in between. Houses, and neighbors, become isolated. Ways are being discussed to mitigate that, because a neighborhood is more than just a collection of houses.
One thing I learned from the meeting is that there are ways to handle potential flood damage. Zoning laws where we live, for example, require businesses to have a certain number of parking spaces. Those spaces are paved, and rain can not penetrate conventional paving. But there is something called permeable paving, which would allow the movement of storm water into the ground. (And, there was discussion of the fact that zoning laws tend to require more spaces than normally needed.)
About a mile from my house, and uphill from it, is a major shopping mall. Its roof may be replaced (it's under discussion now) by a green roof, and some parking lot rain runoff may be handled by various techniques. This may help with the problem of flash flood runoff.
A neighborhood must be in harmony with its environment.
Along with the residences, there was damage was a building once occupied by some 1300 workers, a building owned by the Air Force and rented to BAE Systems, Inc. That building (actually several buildings joined together) is some 600,000. square feet, one of the largest wood framed building in the United States.
For three years now it has awaited its fate after it was announced, in November of 2011, that it could not be repaired. Without a definite plan, my neighborhood will never be able to move forward into the future.
Of course, those 1300 workers will never be returning. Right now, they are in buildings a few miles down the road, but BAE may decide to leave our area all together. We need businesses to return. We need their tax dollars.
A neighborhood needs jobs.
Now, the BAE demolition date was just announced. We know now that demolition will begin next spring lasting into the summer. And the cost? At least 17.3 million dollars.
So what happens after demolition?
That is where the 167 pages comes in. There are grand plans for those 30 acres- mixed use residential/commercial use, a movie theatre, ball parks.
The drawing even shows a farmers market.
I have mixed feelings about this plan. Would I, for example, want to live in a place that, just three years ago, was under several feet of water for a couple of days, no matter how many flood control techniques are used in its building?
Not many of us get to plan the future of our neighborhood - a plan that, for us, must take climate change into account.
A neighborhood needs vision. Let's hope this vision is the right one.