Ashland Park neighborhoods's decision on H-1 zoning was thorough, fair

November 12, 2012 

  • At issue: Oct. 21 Tom Eblen column, "Ashland Park made for historic designation; neighborhood boasts qualifications aplenty"; Oct. 26 Herald-Leader article, "Ashland Park approved as historic district; city council has final decision" and Oct. 31 Herald-Leader editorial, "OK Ashland's historic district; commissioner confused about job"

Having lived on South Ashland Avenue for the past 20 years, I decided to give back to our wonderful neighborhood by serving on the board of directors of the Ashland Park Neighborhood Association.

I had no desire to be president of the group, but two years ago the board decided otherwise.

We have a talented board of 13 individuals who care deeply about their neighborhood, as well they should.

After all, how many neighborhoods can say they were landscaped by the famous Olmsted brothers (New York City's Central Park, the Capitol mall in Washington, D.C., etc.)?

How many neighborhoods have the historical, cultural and architectural significance of this beautiful area, which was part of the original Henry Clay estate, known as Ashland?

Ashland Park was designated as a historic neighborhood by the National Register of Historic Places on March 31, 1986.

In 2011, the neighborhood association board voted 13-0 to investigate the possibility of historic H-1 designation. (South Ashland Avenue was designated H-1 in 1989. My neighbors who live on the street are very pleased with the aesthetic and economic results of that decision.)

H-1 requires that newly built homes and exterior repairs on existing homes maintain the established architectural standards. Our board is concerned about protecting the legacy of our neighborhood.

We held six neighborhood meetings, attended by some 150 people, on the subject. We circulated a petition, which showed overwhelming support for H-1. We attempted to notify every property owner in the area of our intention.

We worked closely with the staffs of the Division of Historic Preservation and the Planning Commission. We supported the proposed H-1 boundary recommended by Historic Preservation. Planning sent a postcard to owners of the 283 affected neighborhood properties, asking whether they were for or against H-1.

Of the cards returned with an opinion, exactly 150 (75 percent) voted in favor and exactly 50 (25 percent) were opposed. Four returned cards expressed no opinion. Interestingly, 27.5 percent of the property owners who opposed H-1 do not live in the neighborhood but are absentee owners of rental properties.

So we proceeded with our application and, to date, have received approval from the Board of Architectural Review and the Planning Commission. We still require approval by the Urban City Council. Although we respect the free-speech rights of our opponents, we have been surprised and disappointed by some of their misstatements of fact.

We sincerely appreciate the support of the Herald-Leader as expressed in a recent column by Tom Eblen and in an excellent editorial calling on the Urban County Council to support our H-1 application and pointing out the responsibilities of appointees to the Planning Commission.

Tony Chamblin is president of the Ashland Park Neighborhood Association.

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