Neighborhood Advocacy: Discovering Our Voice

Over the last week we have become involved in advocating for our neighborhood in a new way. On February 1st a few of us, along with members of our neighborhood association, attended the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (MAPC) meeting in order to show and voice our support at the hearing regarding the new neighborhood garden project on S. Broadway. There were six public hearings scheduled for that day. When we arrived, we learned that another one of the hearings related to a property in our neighborhood. This second application was for a used car lot on south Broadway.

It was interesting to participate in a Zoning Hearing. City planning staff presented information on each case and then applicants and/or their agent were allowed 10 minutes to speak about their proposed project. The Planning Commission consists of Wichita City Council appointees as well as Sedgwick County Commission appointees. After discussion, members of the public were allowed 3 minutes to speak about the zoning proposal. A few of us took the opportunity to speak to the MAPC about our hopes for the neighborhood. We cited our Neighborhood Plan and the desire for new types of businesses. It was significant to witness the power of our Neighborhood Plan as well as the power of our own voices as passionate residents of SoCe. It was also challenging to consider the best use of properties in our neighborhood. Is it better to have a new business - even though it is not a type favored by the Neighborhood Plan - or to allow a building to sit empty and be susceptible to vandalism?

This week,  I attended our monthly District Advisory Board (DAB) meeting. Both SoCe-related cases that were presented at the MAPC meeting were discussed at the DAB. I have seen the importance of the DAB's advisory role before, but this time I was also aware of my voice as an active citizen in my community. City officials, District residents, and my DAB colleagues sought my input as well as that of other South Central Neighborhood Association Board members in determining the way forward for our neighborhood.

There are tough decisions to be made, as well as compromises to be negotiated, and relationships to be cultivated. As we step up and use our voice, persistence is needed. Advocating for one's neighborhood is a "long haul" journey. I am up for it and ready for next week's MAPC meeting!