Not everyone responds to emails. Sometimes, it's because those emails get sent to junk folders, and that's unfortunate. However, there are times when people simply decide to ignore emails because they don't want to deal with the person behind those emails. I ran into this phenomenon back in Milwaukee when my neighborhood was being assaulted by construction because of the Zoo Interchange upgrade. The companies and officials who ignored me still have articles written about them as reminders, and it's often the first article someone searching will find. That's the power of words and the internet.
I'm in Jacksonville, Florida now, and it appears that not everyone here understands what happens when an article is published online. The search terms are always there, as long as I own this domain, and I think this one is registered for another decade. For example, when I write an article about Magnolia Cove, which is a new subdivision from KB Home, I'll have two articles in the top 10 of Google for some time. And then after all the marketing from KB Home disappears in the next few years, my article will still be here.
Sleiman is the first company to ignore (or never see) my email about Kernan and McCormick in Jacksonville. I had asked about their plans to develop the corner lots they own. I had not questioned their motives or techniques, though I did wonder just a little bit about the company finding religion in bailing out Faithbridge Church, located right next door to where Sleiman wanted to put a convenience store. A relationship of convenience, it would seem.
I didn't figure much could be done by contacting Faithbridge Church, since the members there are still likely appreciative of the very large and not-at-all-suspicious donation. When I realized a new subdivision was going in right next to the 2.5 acres set aside to be a gas station, I looked up my City Council representation so that I could learn more.
Maybe the church was paid for and the new residents of the subdivision could not yet speak up, but I figured my City Councilmen would want to hear from me. I sent my next letter to Al Ferraro and John Crescembeni. No doubt, they decided to take their time in responding, and that would normally be fine, but with a gas station lot currently for sale, I thought a quick response might be in order. Al attends Holy Spirit Catholic Church (in his public biography), which is not right next to a gas station, but I am certain that it would not bother him at all if cheap apartments and a beer-stop gas station went in right next door. Since my church (and my kids' school) is basically at Kernan and McCormick, it does make a difference to me. I am fine with new houses in the 200s going into the area. I am fine with apartments, if need be. I would be happy to see a professional office, park, farmers market, or something other than a convenience store be added to the intersection. Unless that gas station wants to pay for a nice pedestrian bridge across both Kernan and McCormick.
Let's take a look at the parts of the 2030 Comprehensive Plan (Housing Element) that may be getting thrown aside so that developers can build a gas station in a new neighborhood:
1.4.4 Commercial and other non-residential uses lying adjacent to residential neighborhoods shall not be expanded into residential neighborhoods unless such uses enhance or do not diminish or degrade the residential character of the neighborhood.
1.4.5 The City's Planning and Development Department shall continue to identify those incompatible, non-residential land uses within recognized, established neighborhoods which degrade the residential character of the neighborhood, and that are not in conformance with the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.
1.4.6 The Building and Zoning Inspection Division will take steps to reduce the impact of commercial areas or uses on residential neighborhoods by increased inspection activity to identify violations of landscaping, buffering and signage requirements of the Zoning Code in such areas.
And from the Future Land Use Element:
Maintain existing stable neighborhoods through coordinated rehabilitation and conservation action by the Building Inspection Division and Planning and Development Department. Protect residential areas from encroachment by incompatible land uses through proper zoning, and from through or heavy traffic by use of buffers and other mitigating measures.
Develop and implement through the Planning and Development Department urban design criteria that will address the interface of incompatible land uses (e.g., commercial and residential) and provide mitigation techniques to guide the redevelopment of uses affected by road widenings.
Objective 2.10 Apply urban development characteristics as defined in this element to suburban mixed-use development projects as a means of promoting the development of complementary uses that include cultural, recreational, and integrated commercial and residential components, in order to reduce the negative impacts of urban sprawl.
The City shall incorporate, in the Land Development Regulations, a system of incentives to promote development and redevelopment opportunities through mixed and multi-use projects.
The City shall include incentives in the development review process to encourage residential development with supporting uses such as retail, restaurant, recreation and open space that relate physically and visually to nearby areas of the City through a design concept, which includes, but is not limited to:
1. Residential development with a full range of urban uses and support facilities;
2. Physically connected neighborhoods bound together by pedestrian paths andpublic spaces.
The City shall eliminate incompatible land uses or blighting influences from potentially stable, viable residential neighborhoods through active code enforcement and other regulatory measures.
The Planning and Development Department shall identify areas in the City meeting the criteria for residential enclaves as defined in this element. These areas will be protected from premature fragmentation by intrusive non-residential uses through review of development approvals and rezoning requests and according to criteria found in the Land Development Regulations.
The City shall promote, through the Land Development Regulations, infill and redevelopment of existing commercial areas in lieu of permitting new areas to commercialize.
The City shall permit expansion of commercial uses adjacent to residential areas only if such expansion maintains the existing residential character, does not encourage through traffic into adjacent residential neighborhoods, and meets design criteria set forth in the Land Development Regulations.
The City shall implement the locational criteria of this element for commercial and industrial uses consistent with the character of the areas served, availability of public facilities, and market demands.
As I looked at houses in Jacksonville for my family, I saw one really nice house right off a major street. It was cheap for what you got. When I did a Google Maps Streetview of the area, however, I could see why. There was a used car lot two houses away. Not even a gas station, but enough to diminish the value by about $30,000 over comparable homes.
Of course, I am worried about what's going in on both sides of Kernan and McCormick. We know for sure that we have homes in the $200s, a gas station, and what's zoned to be apartments. All three of those uses will likely impact where I live and my kids go to school. You can tell all you need to know about an area by the intersection of the closest major roads. For me growing up in Milwaukee, that intersection was 76th and Capitol, which became the kind of intersection that made people want to move somewhere else. The Kernan-McCormick intersection still has the potential to be a beacon to those in search of a quality residential area in which to live, but it also has the potential to become the opposite.
[UPDATE - Aug 7th, 2017]
It's been over a month since my first contact to Sleiman, so I will write them off as refusing to respond. I assume if I had mentioned my budget for possibly purchasing some of their land, I'd have gotten a call or email.
KB Home added me to their email list after about a week. No response to my actual concerns in that time. I guess we'll see how many of their potential customers read my article and wonder why.
I assume Al Ferraro and John Crescembeni might be on vacation, but their offices have not responded after a week. I'm not even on their mailing lists. I assume there's an intern looking into the legalities of the decisions they made. Then again, they also may be ignoring me because I might go away, unlike the residents over near McCormick and Mt. Pleasant, who HAVE successfully blocked a gas station from sleazing up their neighborhood.