Mick Ireland

What bigotry sounds like when your targeted minority is less affluent young people looking for housing: “We have to be real about the cannabis, because young adults getting off work are going to come home and smoke pot,” said a neighboring realtor of a proposed five-unit housing project on East Cooper.

“It introduces renters to what has been an all-owner neighborhood,” said another.

Disrupting our way of life and lowering property values complained another.

The city is conspiring to take our (second, third?) house, whined another.

The vilification and demonization of “those people” has begun in the name of preserving and enhancing already sky-high property values. Neighbors in what has become a second-, third- and fourth-home majority enclave are worried that the neighborhood will be “ruined,” and property devalued if density is increased to allow three additional units on the back of a lot where a small single-family cabin now rests.

Inquiring minds at the news outlets might have noted that the neighborhood is host to several vacation rental units where, presumably, vacationers who come to party, to smoke the legal weed, have sexual relations and, horror of horrors, park on the streets.

“Young people of money” who smoke pot and park on the streets are just fine if they can cough up $600 or $685 per night. Bartenders, lift ops, bus drivers who live on $600 per week need to live out of town.

It’s a fair question to ask the complainers whether they rent out their units as vacation spots and, if so, are their guests discouraged from smoking pot, parking on the streets, and encouraged to quiet, required to be over the age of 60, etc. etc.? Or is it just “those people” who need to be systematically excluded from East Cooper Avenue?

The project itself should have been approved easily at the Historic Preservation Commission as it meets the letter and spirit of the use code. It provides four spaces for parking (other neighboring structures provide none), repurposes and preserves the existing small historic building as two units, is smaller and less dense than the surrounding second homes and corporately owned multifamily structures.

It would enable locals who aren’t retired to live in the town they serve and inject a bit of vitality in a neighborhood where the average age is about 55 and only two or three people under the age of 30 reside.

In other words, the proposal does what council candidates and elected officials always claim needs to be done: it brings locals into town to homes that don’t require long drives to work, don’t require a city subsidy to build and five jobs to pay the rent.

Irony lives in this historic home in a nation that has systematically used zoning and lending practices to exclude Black people, low-income workers and “those people” for most of the last century. We wonder why there are so many homeless camping on sidewalks while systematically excluding even modest density in our cities.

Most major cities with housing and homeless disasters are zoned primarily for single-family residences with 70% or 80% of all land area dedicated to single-family units and everything else left to compete for the scraps of less desirable locations abutting power plants, refineries and other industrial uses.

The HPC is assigned the task of preserving history, not regulating pot smoking, parking or ensuring that homeowners are guaranteed double-digit annual returns on their investments. Approval of this project would preserve a small, history rich cabin separated from the main building.

Mick Ireland lives gratefully in a high-density affordable housing neighborhood and could care less whether his neighbors smoke pot. Mick@sopris.net