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CAMP Defeats Cabal of Alderman, Police and Business Leader, Wins Right

Board of Adjustment Grants CAMP an Occupancy Permit after long months of struggle.




The Communities Arts and Media Project (CAMP([search])) won a months-long
struggle to operate a community center in the building when the St.
Louis Board of Adjustment issued an occupancy permit at a hearing on
December 14. Though there are still some issues to be resolved--such
as the occupancy limit for the first floor--the CAMP community will
open the first-floor community space in early 2006.
Over 40 people showed up at the hearing in support of CAMP's
occupancy
permit, while only three showed up for the opposition. During their
testimony, the opposition continued their smear and delay tactics.
Capt. Thomas Magnan of the St. Louis Police Department said that if
CAMP opened, there would be problems with, "Empty liquor bottles
strewn everywhere and people urinating on the sides of buildings." He
was apparently not paying attention when Barb Chicherio of the CAMP
Board testified that CAMP would be a drug and alcohol free space, and
that the first floor has four recently built bathrooms.
Shirley Wallace, president of the Cherokee([search]) Station Business
Association, once again displayed photos of graffiti and made
unsubstantiated charges that people from CAMP were responsible for
criminal acts in the neighborhood. Craig Schmid, the 20th Ward
Alderman([search]), said that CAMP's occupancy should be limited to 49 people,
suggested that CAMP should never be allowed to operate after 11:00 PM
and be required to provide security for people entering and leaving
the building to parking areas. Schmid even said that activities like
movies in the back yard were inappropriate for the neighborhood, that
it was "like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole." He suggested
that CAMP members needed to "prove themselves" before they could use
the backyard after 6:00 PM.
"You're treating them like children," one Board member rebuked
Schmid.
She added, "How can they prove themselves if they are not allowed to
have events there in the first place?"
Last Summer, CAMP hosted movie nights in the backyard several times.
The police received no noise or disturbance complaints at any of these
events. CAMP mistakenly showed a movie featuring some nudity in 2004,
but CAMP representatives apologized to neighbors and the CAMP Board has
promised to pre-screen all movies to insure this does not happen again.
Don Fitz, testifying for the Gateway Green Alliance (a member
organization of CAMP) called Schmid on his ploy to strangle CAMP
financially. "We need to be able to hold fundraisers to support the
building," he said, adding, "If we can only have 49 people inside the
building, it will kill fundraisers."
Earlier this year, the building division filed a suit against CAMP,
alleging that it was running a boarding house on the 2nd floor. The 2nd
floor of CAMP is a 4 person housing cooperative. "Boarding house" is a
common charge against housing cooperatives nation-wide when antiquated
local ordinances are applied to housing coops. The charges were not
pursued by the building division at the hearing in November.
After their request for an occupancy permit was turned down last
summer by the City's Building Division, CAMP appealed to the Board of
Adjustment. During an August hearing, the Board tossed out protocol
and would only allow testimony from Art Friedrich for CAMP and Schmid
against CAMP. Due to the complaint that Schmid would not communicate
with CAMP, the Board recommended mediation. Schmid claimed to be
willing to resolve the conflict, despite his previous foot dragging.
Several members of CAMP attended three mediation sessions in
October.
Some issues were resolved, but Schmid insisted that CAMP not be allowed
to operate after 11:00 PM on any night and that there was no adequate
plan to deal with parking. For her part, Shirley Wallace vehemently
opposed using the back yard after dark, and seemed aghast that anyone
would want to show movies in the back yard. The two sides could not
come close to agreeing on the daily occupancy limit. At the mediation,
Schmid suggested 30 people as the occupancy limit, while CAMP
representatives asked for 120 as the limit. (It should be pointed out
that he space in question measures 2428 square feet and according to
1999 building code would accommodate 161 people.) The inflexibility of
the opposition indicated that they favored mediation because it
succeeded in delaying CAMP's opening by at least another four months.
Over the past year, Schmid ignored the cries of the overwhelming
majority of neighbors to open the space immediately without a parking
lot. At the December 14 hearing, he once again charged that CAMP did
not have an adequate plan to deal with parking.
CAMP has in fact secured the use of a parking lot within two blocks
at
a local church, but Schmid dismissed the arrangement at the hearing,
claiming that would be too far for people to walk and it might cause a
disturbance.
Many people feel differently, even those completely unrelated to
CAMP.
"Are parking lots a poison masquerading as a cure?", asked Dom Nozzie
at www.walkablestreets.org. He wrote, "Surface parking tends to
attract and promote criminal or juvenile delinquent behavior.
Pedestrians tend to feel unsafe walking downtown when there are large,
empty spaces, in part because the security of citizen surveillance is
compromised by such vacant, unused spaces." Additionally, " Off-street
parking ... substantially increases start-up costs, reduces walk-in
traffic, and substantially reduces potential residential densities."
Parking should be seen as a subsidy to the auto-bound. St. Louis
already has one of the highest number of parking spots per person in
the country.
Is the whole parking issue just a red herring? Could the real issues
be
free speech and the right to assemble? Parking is just one obstacle
conveniently used to use to prevent the functioning of CAMP as a
grassroots community center. Building cross-cultural connections, the
sense of personal and community empowerment, and deeply examining the
power structures that influence and control our lives are not the focus
for politicians or corporations- that is something we must take into
our own hands.
Watch for announcements of CAMP events soon at www.stlimc.org
CAMP is currently seeking project coordinators for aspects of the
buildings rehab, financial assistance, a grant writer, and lots of
people
all across the city to rise up and make St. Louis a vibrant progressive
town seeking to move beyond the history of racism, sexism, colonialism,
consumerism and environmental exploitation that has gotten us into such
a
sorry state. If you are interested, contact CAMP at 314-776-1721 or visit www.stlcamp.org.
 
 

Comments

Re: CAMP Defeats Cabal of Alderman, Police and Business Leader, Wins Right

Congrats!
 

Re: CAMP Defeats Cabal of Alderman, Police and Business Leader, Wins Right

Glad to hear the news. I can't wait until the events start : ).
 

Re: CAMP Defeats Cabal of Alderman, Police and Business Leader, Wins Right

good job. but when will camp([search]) defeat the cabal of patriarchal stalinists like fitz & chicherio who drive people away through their own campaigns of intimidation, lies and political violence?
 

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