As a committed environmentalist I would prefer not another acre of land be developed. Being a realist, I understand that is not possible so long as we keep adding more people to the planet. Furthermore, I am a strong believer in property rights and individual freedoms. The problem comes when these opposing interests come into conflict. My position is to try to negotiate a middle ground which preserves as much open space and individual property rights as possible.
Knowing this can sound somewhat ambiguous let me share some examples of how I have handled these conflicts in the recent past.
In the late 1980s, the city owned the southwest corner of Van Gordon Street and 2 nd Place around the detention lake. Originally the city was looking into allowing over 400 more apartments to be built on the property. Since this would create unbearable overcrowding in this neighborhood, the residents were opposed to the idea. Spearheading the opposition, I co-founded and served as the first President of the Union Square Community Association (USCA). Over the course of a year of hard bargaining with the city we reach a compromise that turned half the site into the popular Union Square Park and the other half into the Department of Veterans Affairs. This plan prevented the overcrowding problem, brought a park into the neighborhood and created good jobs for our economy. Was everyone happy? No, but the plan was far better than any alternative.
A couple of years ago, some developers proposed to build over 100 apartments in the vacant lot between Safeway and Foothills Elementary School along W. Ohio Ave. As the coordinator of the Green Mountain Alliance (group of homeowners associations in the area) we opposed this plan and negotiated with the developers. Over the course of a year, we got them to agree to reduce their project in half. They went from over 100 apartments to about 50 single family homes. Instead of threatening to lower adjacent property values the new properties would be more valuable as well as having a much lower population density.
As President of Green Mountainside Civic Association, I led an effort to develop a plan for improvements to our local park. One faction of the neighborhood wanted to see very active recreational uses in the park while another faction wanted to keep it undeveloped open space. We reach a compromise where most of the park was undeveloped but the city put in a walking trail, planted landscaping and put in park benches.