We Saved Our Neighborhood
of my duties as a news reporter I attended more than just town council meetings. While working in Sandusky, Michigan, I found that the city had an active Planning Commission that was busy drafting a master
plan for future city development.
time in the 1970s most towns in the nation were doing this kind of thing. It was a requirement before towns qualified for
federal grant money for urban renewal and other community development projects.
hired a professional planner to help draft the city’s master plan. One night I attended a commission meeting when this
man unveiled the proposed final plan for commission approval. Once accepted by the commission it was to go before the City
Council for final approval. After that it would become the official master plan for the city. I was shocked at what this document
it identified existing industrial properties, residential properties and commercial properties, it also marked the houses
in the neighborhood where I lived for a zoning change from residential to industrial. The planner reasoned that these were
homes occupied by moderate to low income families and were not as good a tax base as they could be for the city. He felt they
could be sacrificed for new industrial development, thus raising the town’s property tax revenues substantially.
this man and the members of the commission were overlooking was that the people that worked in the factories already in existence
were the moderate and low income families that lived in the houses he wanted to demolish. Had they been removed, the workers
would have had to move out of town to find homes of comparable value.
hearing was set on the master plan.
it was against protocol for reporters to get involved in the events we reported on, I had a personal interest here. I first
wrote a news story, explaining what would happen to the neighborhood if the plan was adopted. Then I went door-to-door throughout
the neighborhood, making sure that everybody knew how their homes would be affected. Most of the houses, like ours, were owned
by young married couples and were nearly all being renovated. This was an era of home improvement and it was an inexpensive
way for just about anybody to own a home.
it was that I led a large delegation of citizens to the hearing. There were so many of us that the meeting had to be moved
from City Hall to the Sandusky High School cafeteria. It was a long and heated meeting, with a lot of citizens speaking out
against this part of the master plan. I even broke the rules and personally addressed the issue. It was difficult writing
that news story and dealing with myself in the story. I don’t remember just how I handled it. Somehow my editor at that
time proved to be somewhat understanding and I got away with it.
was heard and the Planning Commission revised the master plan to leave our residential neighborhood alone. I felt good about
that. To this day the homes on those streets remain intact. I did a recent Google exam of the old neighborhood and am happy
to report that the homes have all been greatly improved. Consequently, the city’s tax base was improved without having
to tear these houses down.