Commentary on “What Are Residents Entitled To?”

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Commentary on “What Are Residents Entitled To?”

It was only after reading the last line of the post, “What Are Residents Entitled To?”, that I realized the author wasn’t joking. Homeowners and tenants both have additional rights beyond no trespassing, safety, quiet enjoyment, etc. The most cherished, and probably the most important, is the right to participate in policy-making. To accuse neighbors of feeling “entitled” by insisting on this right, demonizes participants engaged in the democratic process. Just ask anyone who lived in the Hayti when it was being demolished if they felt “entitled” to keep their neighborhood intact.

When a person/couple/family is looking at a particular property, they are 100% looking at the surrounding area and buying into being a part of what they see and have researched.  Some are looking for good schools, handicap accessible street crossings, green lawns, or even a historic protective overlay that keeps a neighborhood from being gutted and inappropriately modern structures established in their wake.  When a homeowner has plunked down money for what is the largest purchase they will likely ever make in their life, they should feel entitled to protect it from harm. Harm comes in many forms and can sometimes be difficult to define.  In general, it’s why we have zoning at all – because someone, way back when, didn’t want a caustic factory being built next to the children’s playground.

What homeowners are entitled to is to fight for their definition of what they perceive to be as harm to them and to their home.  They are entitled to go to committee sessions and speak out. They are entitled to be civically minded and vote for candidates that support their views. They are entitled to ask for laws and rules and codes and zoning to help keep and establish their perceived version of “quiet enjoyment”. This means that every time something comes into question or challenges that definition, people in that community absolutely MUST speak up.  We’re all entitled to a voice.  

As a homeowner who lives in an Urban Tier with a Protective Historic Overlay on our Nationally Registered Historic Neighborhood, there are probably as many homeowners who would prefer to do away with all the protections as much as there are who wish there were more.  When we purchased here, you bet we had to buy into this neighborhood and all its rules. We had to agree to abide by them. In doing so, we also purchased the “look and feel” of the neighborhood in the way it was intended to be protected. We agreed with the premise and have spent a lot of time being engaged, speaking for and against some development, and calling out violations by those in our neighborhood (thank you Durham One Call). It’s my civic duty to keep the Protections as much as it my duty to try and change them if I think they are no longer applicable.  I’m entitled to this as a citizen of Durham.  

Through my civic responsibilities, my entitlement runs far. My voice should be heard about lot sizes, affordable housing, ADUs, developments of any kind, police presence, taxes, bike lanes, sidewalks, bus stops, businesses, tear-downs, density growth, traffic, and most definitely the preservation of a neighborhood’s character. My entitlement extends to reporting landlords or their lease-holders who aren’t being accountable for keeping up their end of the “look and feel” of my historic neighborhood, to call in abandoned or unregistered cars on our streets, and to reach out to city officials when a developer is clearly working outside of the COA and Preservation departments rules. There are probably departments within City Government who have my name on a list.

Are homeowners entitled to have a say about any of the things listed?  They absolutely do!