Justin Wasson, guest columnist
A few years ago a group came together with the idea to bring 25 Little Free Libraries to the Wellington Heights neighborhood. The reasoning was simple, to provide every child in a high-poverty neighborhood with access to books. I was president of the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association at the time and became deeply involved in this project. However, the project came up against an obstacle.
I was informed just before installation of the little libraries that the city has an ordinance which requires a permit for all 25 Little Libraries that we planned to erect. We did not have the time or the room in our budget to do 25 permits so I asked what would happen if we just installed them without permits. The response from the zoning employee was that the city would tear them out of the ground.
I was appalled by this response. But it made me that much more passionate about making sure this project was finished. We successfully finished installation and the little free libraries are still operational and used frequently today.
I’m telling you this story for a simple reason. I am running for Cedar Rapids City Council in District 3. I am running for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is because I think there can be more common sense included in our city ordinances. Allowing some discretion at the zoning department in this instance would have shown that this project will have a huge positive impact on a needy neighborhood and no one is negatively affected.
I have struggled with several other zoning ordinances that hurt older neighborhoods like Wellington Heights, Oakhill/Jackson, Taylor, and others. I will be a fighter for improved zoning codes that promote private investment our older core neighborhood. As a resident of Wellington Heights this would not only benefit me, but all my neighbors. Just as you want an apple with a healthy core it is in our best interests to make sure that the core neighborhoods of our town are given the tools to grow and prosper. As a member of the city council I will make sure that this becomes reality.
• Justin Wasson is a small-business owner, neighborhood leader, and active volunteer who lives in the Wellington Heights neighborhood and has been involved in local politics. Comments: (319) 431-8773; firstname.lastname@example.org