By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

Think about the neighborhood you live in. We’ll bet that as soon as you did, a wide variety of characteristics instantly sprang to mind.

A neighborhood is a neighborhood because of its distinctive characteristics. You probably chose the neighborhood you live in because certain attributes appealed to you. Some of these relate to geographical location, such as up on a hill, down by a river, or at the mouth of a canyon. Others relate to the physical character of the structures such as the size, height, or age of the homes. Attributes may also relate to the type of residence, such as single-family homes, multi-family apartments or urban live/work spaces.

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The homes on this block face exemplify the diversity inherent in many of Salt Lake City’s neighborhoods. These homes have evolved over the years, and in fact, one is less than a year old.

The people who live in a neighborhood are also part of its distinctive characteristics. They may share similar socio-economic, ethnic, or lifestyle characteristics. Some neighborhoods are diverse and full of families, empty-nesters, and singles, while other neighborhoods cater to specific homogenous groups, such as retirees or students.

Together it is the people, architecture, and location that make up a neighborhood. And by their very nature, neighborhoods are living, breathing organisms that will change over time. In particular, physical changes in neighborhoods have gotten much attention in the past few years. You’ve heard of monster homes in which tiny houses are added onto or razed altogether to create massive structures on tiny lots. Or you’ve seen modern homes built in older neighborhoods that don’t match the surrounding houses. A recent controversy brewed as Salt Lake’s City Council debated changes to the city’s zoning ordinances that would expand the rules for what can and cannot be done to new and remodeled homes within the city limits.

Whether you think the homes on your street should be architecturally consistent or whether you value architectural diversity, the important point is this: Decisions that ultimately control a neighborhood are made by people who get involved.

Salt Lake City finalized its base zoning ordinances just last week, and the new ordinances will significantly impact future residential construction within the city limits. These decisions were made by citizens who got involved — the City Council, the Planning Commission, various community councils, and individual homeowners who attended hearings to express their views.

Residents of the Yalecrest community (1300 East to 1900 East and 800 South to 1300 South) recently devoted four years to studying their neighborhood. The result was a zoning overlay, which defines planning and building parameters for the neighborhood and which overrides the base zoning ordinances of Salt Lake City. Again, these decisions were made by people who got involved.

How concerned are you about your neighborhood? How informed are you? How involved are you? There are characteristics you love about your neighborhood. There may be characteristics you don’t love. We strongly encourage you to get involved, educate yourselves about issues facing your community, and become part of the future of your neighborhood. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at as*@re*******************.com.

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