March 20, 2013

In Praise of Government Transparency

Yesterday we received a postcard from the Syracuse Board of Zoning Appeals, advising us of a hearing taking place next Thursday. The hearing is to "consider in full, or in part" an application for a waiver on the uses permitted on a property around the corner from us. 

Apparently, the owners of the house, which is in a quiet, unassuming residential area, are interested in opening an umbrella factory. Yep -- an umbrella factory.

Frankly, I'm kind of surprised we got the notification. We cannot see the house from here, it's on a parallel street and behind the houses across the street from us.  The city thinks we're within 400 feet of the proposed factory location, but that'd take some pretty impressive crow-flying; for all practical purposes, it's closer to a 300 or 400 yards away than 400 feet, if I were to guess. That being said, I appreciate getting the notice and having the opportunity to inspect the full proposal at the Zoning Office, or to attend the hearing if we want.

I don't think it's going to end up being anything like what you see in the photo I've included here; I can't imagine my neighbor is going to hire a bunch of immigrants or illegals and put in a sweat shop,  which is what the picture seems to show. And even if they did hire some folks, I can't imagine there being a whole lot of impact to us, except perhaps a longer ice cream line at the Arctic Island this summer.

Not sure this is worth taking time off from work, but I may submit my questions in writing.  Here are the things I'm wondering about:
  1. What kind of umbrellas will be manufactured there?  If it's the little ones that go in drinks, I think it would probably be OK.
  2. What are the risks to neighborhood if they start opening all the umbrellas indoors?  Will we be swept by a swarm of locusts, or by a string of bad luck?
  3. If they're going to be making patio umbrellas, would we be able to participate in the quality control process by setting a couple of them up in the garden, sitting a spell, maybe enjoying a glass of wine?
  4. Will neighbors get a discounted price on purchases?
In all seriousness, I think it's great that the City of Syracuse takes the trouble to notify us of these things. I think they could make the process a little better by providing a link where we could review the zoning request online, rather than having to stop by their office during business hours, but any effort at neighborhood outreach is appreciated.

If this gets approved, I'll let you know what kind of umbrellas they're going to make.  If we get lucky, maybe we'll have a party!

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