Some neighborly ideas crop up

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 4 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:06 am in

By The Gazette Editorial Board

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Interesting ideas about quality of life and its sustainability are emerging in the Corridor.

Most recently, in Iowa City, a group of residents has proposed a cohousing development on 8 acres they own in the southern part of Iowa City. They want to build about 30 housing units, a mix of single-family homes and apartments, with owners sharing a common building, open space and gardens. Home sizes would be smaller than typical because of the shared facilities.

In Cedar Rapids, a City Council committee voiced support for expanding urban farming options throughout the city. The ordinanceís definition ó created in 2011 at the request of the non-profit Matthew 25 that is building an urban village and farm in the Time Check neighborhood ó allows small-scale urban farming on vacant or undeveloped land. The new proposal would permit it on available land throughout the city. The intent is to encourage expansion of local food systems, which serves one of the goals of the healthy-living Blue Zones Project to which the city has committed. Neighbors and other volunteers could join forces, in part, to raise food for local pantries that assist those in poverty.

As with all proposals, details have to be finalized and public input invited. The overall effect on neighborhoods and residents who arenít interested in these new initiatives must be weighed and respected,†of course.

Still, thereís much to like about these proposals, and they have some things in common. The cohousing project brings environmentally friendly aspects such as less land used than for the same number of traditional single-family residences, while giving residents access to private outdoor space they couldnít otherwise afford by themselves.

Urban farming makes more use of limited in-city resources, too, and could bring a healthier variety of†affordable fresh foods to more people.

And donít forget the neighborliness factor. These proposals could enhance the sense of community, inviting neighbors to work together, get to know each other better and watch out for each other. That might be the biggest benefit of all.

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