Last year Heights of Hope (Holland, Michigan) began to rent a small apartment in our neighborhood to use for community meetings and activities. A few months ago we were notified by the City of Holland that our usage of such an apartment was a zoning violation and that we were not longer allowed to use it for non-residential purposes.
The apartment had become a regular meeting place for S.O.A.R (Stratford Oxford Abbey Representatives) which is a group of neighborhood members who meet to address the concerns of our neighborhood for the betterment of our community.
The SOAR group met with the Chief of Police, who encouraged them to draft a letter to the City of Holland. A letter was sent to the city requesting a zoning waiver, and the group was granted the opportunity to go before the Zoning Commission and make an appeal.
On a rainy and cold night in February, 6 members of our neighborhood, plus our Board president, our landlord, and a city council member, appeared before the Zoning Commission explaining why a community center is vital to the development of our neighborhood.
It was a daunting experience for many community members, but their boldness and decision to speak up is what ultimately lead the Zoning Commission to grant full usage of the apartment for community purposes. We were elated at this unexpected victory, and are very proud of our community members for standing up for their neighborhood.
Tracey Forbes, Director Heights of Hope and Americorps Supervisor