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CAMP Victorious!

The Communities Arts and Media Project (CAMP) won a months-long struggle to operate a community center in their location at 3022 Cherokee 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 Spring 2006.
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The Communities Arts and Media Project (CAMP([search])) won a months-long struggle to operate a community center in their location at 3022 Cherokee([search]) 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 Spring 2006.#file_0#


The CAMP community center will house a free computer center, a bike workshop, a library of rare books and 'zines, a homework club, and will showcase local musicians and locally made videos.


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 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 said that activities like movies in the back yard were inappropriate for the neighborhood, and 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 ensure 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, Building Inspector Brian Ketcherside 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 court date in November.


Harassment of CAMP began in May 2003 when the Building Division, in conjunction with the police, raided CAMP with over two dozen officers. They confiscated puppets, rehab materials and phone lists because CAMP was part of the opposition to the pro-biotech World Agriculture Forum. Before visiting CAMP, Police ransacked another housing cooperative, the Bolozone([search]), and left it in a shambles and arrested all occupants on flimsy charges. (See June, 2003 Confluence([search]) issue at www.stlconfluence.org or The Riverfront Times' "Meet the Anarchists" June 25, 2003).


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 20 hours of mediation 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.

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 and confronting the power structures that 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 seeking project coordinators for building rehab, financial assistance and grant writing. Contact CAMP at 314-776-1721.

 
 

Comments

Re: CAMP Victorious!

Do we a parents want our children around transvestites? If no keep your children away from camp([search]). If you see a van with fetish plates, grab your kids and run!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

Re: Re: CAMP Victorious!

What are "fetish plates"?
 

STLIMC CENSORS

HITLER RUNS THIS WEBSITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

C.A.M.P. people are closet republicans!
 

Re: STLIMC CENSORS

Although the tone of your comment doesn't really suggest you'd give much of a damn about it, stlimc has revised its newswire posting policy to address some recent abuse of the forum.

www.stlimc.org/newswire/display/1313/index.php

You might want to skim thru the new policy, especially the list of encouraged contributions, and then see if you can reword your insults into, say, constructive criticism. If not, then yes, indeed, your Hitler analogies will mostly likely find their way onto the hidden page.
 

Re: CAMP Victorious!

HEY DIGGER, HOW DOES IT FEEL WHEN LIES ARE TURNED TOWARD YOU? STOP TELLING LIES ABOUT THE POLICE AND NEIGHBORHOOD PEOPLE.
 

What you got against hat-makers?

I'm confused by your comment ("lies turned toward you"). Are implying that you are lying in your comment, in some sort of misguided retribution? I don't think that's an effective method for character assassination.

And what do you have against hatters? Besides the crazy one in "Alice in Wonderland," milliners have been respected artisans for well over a millenium.
 

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