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Today's word on journalism

February 17, 2009

Why I miss my hate mail:

"It's an odd thing to admit, but in a perverse sort of way, I actually miss the wretched river, the rancid flow of puerile, nasty, sickeningly homophobic email I used to receive on a regular basis from the ultra-right and the Christian right and the Mormon right and the Bush-impaired whenever I would post a friendly, pointed column full of tangy liberal attitude. . . . . Oh, I miss all the lovely and positive email too, which outpaced the nasty stuff by a huge margin. But the hate mail was very special indeed, great fodder for live readings, for the reaction of horrified disbelief of anyone who saw it, for the charming reminder of just how ugly and violent and grammatically challenged the human animal can be."

--Mark Morford, columnist, (2/13/09)

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Mendon couple's request to amend zoning law denied

By Greg Boyles

MENDON -- A Mendon couple stormed out of the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week after their request to amend a zoning ordinance was unanimously denied.

Julie and Kent Gwillaim said they have been trying for many months to find a way to rent out their basement, but have had every attempt thus far blocked by the commission. At Wednesday night's meeting they proposed an amendment to the ordinance that would allow single home owners the ability to rent each vacant room in their house to one individual.

"We are proposing to change the wording in ordinance so that if an applicant (someone who desires to rent out space) desires to rent out a portion of their property they could do so in a way that is compliant with the ordinance," Kent said.

Kent also argued the commission has a responsibility to seek a solution to the shortcomings of the ordinances currently in place.

Justin Anderson, city planning and zoning commissioner, said he appreciates the desires of the Gwillaim's to rent out their basement, however, he does not feel that the city ordinances have any transgressions regarding zoning.

Anderson said he was against allowing a zone one, or single family home, to rent out rooms in their own house because if an exception to the rule was made for one individual, others would ask for similar treatment.

"If others come in and rent, this will become a rental community, and [home] values will go down," he said.

Jason Wooden, Mendon City Council representative, said he agreed with Anderson, but the possibility of Mendon becoming a rental community wasn't his biggest concern.

Mendon City planners set up zoning throughout the city according to the resources available, Wooden said. If renters are allowed, it would be difficult to regulate how much human waste is going into septic tanks, and the cost for additional services like garbage removal.

"If we allowed [single family zone] homes to rent, it would put our resources over the top. This is why we have limited multi-family zone areas in Mendon. This would open up all homes in the city to have renters," he said.

Wooden said the sudden increase in population would also raise crime rates and possibly taxes which would be needed to pay for the extra expenses.

Kent also brought up the point that others in the city are currently renting out space in their homes without having gone before the planning and zoning commission and the city has done nothing to stop them.

To this Wooden said he has not heard of this occurring, however, due to the size of Mendon and the lack of city funding, it is almost impossible to police. Those problems usually only become recognized by the commission if they are brought up as a formal complaint by a city resident.

In response Kent said, "Well maybe we'll just rent out our basement anyway and in that time consult with a [lawyer], and when you find out, we could make this a very nasty fight."

The final decision by the commission was to refer the inquiry to city council with the recommendation to deny the request.


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