Involvement should go beyond social media lambasting

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When Sheridan resident Ernie Scott and several of his neighbors arrived at the Sheridan Planning Commission meeting Monday evening, they didn’t feel good about their chances of swaying the eventual vote.

As it turned out, they had been right not to get their hopes up.

The group had come to protest a request by First Federal Savings Bank to rezone a pair of Illinois Street lots in preparation for the eventual construction of a new administrative office and parking lot. Bank representatives said a spike in business levels have necessitated the new facilities.

For their part, Scott and his neighbors said the plan would lead to an increase in traffic and a decrease of quality of life for residents of their neighborhood.

Despite their objections, however, the board unanimously sided with the bank.

“It’s not unexpected,” Scott said in the moments following the decision. “I didn’t think we stood a chance.”

Still, the group deserves to be applauded for having gotten involved in the process rather than sitting on the sidelines and remaining cynical about local government.

In a year when so many Sheridan residents have taken to social media as a means of lambasting local officials, Scott and his neighbors took the time to say their piece in person.

Even when one Planning Commission member wrote off their concerns as “really unfounded,” the group remained respectful of the proceedings and displayed a willingness to work with the city as well as the bank to ensure the continued health and vitality of the neighborhood they love.

Too often public hearings become dismantled and fall into one of two camps. Either no one attends and the decisions of city staffers are taken as gospel, or they are heavily attended and residents become belligerent and unwilling to admit that there might, after all, be a side to the story that differs from their own.

Earlier this week, Scott and his neighbors bucked that trend and proved that Sheridan residents still value decency and involvement when it comes to building a better community.

While they were upset with the outcome, Scott didn’t write off the possibility that he would see the issue through to the administrative end. In order to be ultimately approved, the rezone request must be read and approved three times by the Sheridan City Council.

When it comes time for a vote, councilors should take his concerns seriously. Although the bank’s plan was thoroughly vetted by City Planning Director Robert Briggs — an official who has proven time and again to value nuanced and comprehensive consideration of rezone requests — residents deserve to be heard when it comes to issues that directly affect the way they live their lives.

“The process is there for people to participate in,” Scott told The Sheridan Press on Monday.

Other Sheridan residents would be wise to follow his lead.

By |July 10th, 2013|

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