Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Harvest Chili Celebration

Date: Saturday, November 3, 2007
Time: 4-7 p.m.
Location: Empty lot, East end of 7th street

By Ann Kreilkamp

I sit here in Green Acres, listening to blessed rain on leaves turning gold—and find an email from a friend trapped indoors by smoke from San Diego's raging brush fires. When Californians do go outside, they rarely say howdy to neighbors, but scurry into cars and lock into freeway formations to distant places.

I've just spent three months on the road, mostly in the arid West, with the last two weeks in the villages of Peru. Above all, on return, I feel immensely grateful.

The sweetness of the Andes mountain peasants lives on inside me. They have a practice which they call "reciprocity," where they help each other plant and harvest fields, hand build their small mud and straw brick homes, and in countless other ways share both burdens and fun. This custom finds encouragement in the design of even their tiniest villages, each spreading out from a colorful, bustling central square.

Like many Midwestern towns, Bloomington enjoys a central square. GANA would like to see a permanent commons in our neighborhood as well. Until that happens, we will continue building reciprocity with gatherings that help us to get to know our neighbors better. So please join our Harvest Chili Celebration on Saturday, November 3, from 4-7 p.m., in the temporary commons where we held our Solstice Gathering in 2006. Remember? That empty lot at the end of 7th Street with the beautiful big tree.

If every household will bring chili and table settings for yourselves, GANA will supply the cider and neighbor Peggy Stuckey will gift us with homemade cornbread.

In case of rain, let’s plan to meet at my house, 134 North Overhill Drive.

Whoever wants to help us get flyers to all 430 houses in Green Acres, please let us know.

Thanks so much, and see you there!


Ann Kreilkamp
GANA scribe

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thoughts on Signs

By Kevin S. Polk

When GANA holds neighborhood events, signs go up at the neighborhood's most trafficked intersections and entrances. For temporary signs, visibility matters most. But as we consider mounting permanent signs, two new purposes emerge.

First, permanent signs help define a place. They give a name and an image to that commuter short-cut that many parts of our neighborhood have become. Coupled with event announcements, the signs say Green Acres is not just a path, but a destination with a life of its own.

Second, when they provide more than just a quick read from the road, signs create common ground. Signs that incorporate art, plantings, benches and bulletin boards give neighbors a place to gather and things to talk about.

The map above shows four types of locations in Green Acres:

  • Major entrances that carry most of the traffic into and out of Green Acres.
  • All other street entrances.
  • The corners that define the neighborhood's boundaries.
  • Some junctions where much of the neighborhood foot and car traffic passes, or where gatherings are held.
Clearly, not every location can serve the purposes of visibility, definition and common ground equally well. Signs at the gathering junctions, for example, would not define the neighborhood as well as signs on the corner boundaries. We also want to avoid placing so many signs as to create an eyesore. So we're looking for a few good locations of at least two different types.

GANA's Sign Proposal Committee plans to visit neighbors who live near some of the colored dots on the map. We'll be asking whether you're interested in having a permanent sign near your property, and if so, what "look" suits you.

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Friday, October 5, 2007

Buying In

How We Went From Renting to Owning in Green Acres
By Kevin Polk

When Kimberly and I started visiting homes for sale in Bloomington two years ago, we looked briefly at Green Acres. We liked the idea of living within walking distance to IU and a short bicycle ride from the library, the farmer's market and downtown. We also liked the schools that served the neighborhood.

However, we didn't like the noisy rentals or the IU traffic that cut the heart of Green Acres into a harrowing warren of speedways twice a day. We saw a few clumps of houses that still looked settled and inviting to families. But they all lay practically on top of the Bypass. So our search soon turned elsewhere.

We were both ready to set down roots. We had lived in eight states. We had become experts at holding garage sales, packing, shipping and postal regulations. Now we wanted to plant a garden and raise pets and children. We wanted anything but a sterile, anonymous apartment life.

In the spring of 2006, I completed a permaculture course. For a final project, I worked with Green Acres residents Ann Kreilkamp and Sylvia Van Bruggen to establish a neighborhood plan. Their enthusiasm was infectious, so we looked into the neighborhood again. When we realized we weren't quite ready to buy, a nice rental turned up on 8th street.

Our year on 8th street went much better than our time in various commuter apartments. Kimberly enjoyed her daily walks to IU through all four seasons. I took the GOES and Habitat Stewards courses and kept a low profile with my sustainable gardening activities at first. But I eventually observed that among the five houses on the block, there were already four organic gardens, an orchard, two or three compost piles, two backyard wildlife habitats, a greenhouse and a passive solar home. Neighbors started turning up at permaculture events.

As we became involved with GANA events and the Neighborhood Plan, it gradually dawned on us what a gem this place was. Residents of four and five decades missed the days when children playing in the streets and yards bound the community together. These elders especially seemed to appreciate efforts to recapture a lost sense of place through neighborhood events, signs, rain gardens and traffic calming. Since many had seen so much of the world used up in their lifetimes, they also encouraged all efforts to make Green Acres a sustainable village. Our landlords seemed delighted with our straw mulches, native plantings, leaf mold bins and tiny vegetable plot, having done plenty of organic gardening when they lived on the property long ago.

When we began to look for a house in spring of 2007, we focused on Green Acres. Yes, it was noisy and carved by traffic. But young families were starting to move in. The neighborhood plan was complete and GANA was full of energy. We looked beyond what the neighborhood was, to what it was becoming again.

We finally bought a house on Edwards Row. In July, while hauling boxes and furniture, we realized that this was our first move to a place where we already knew people. One of Kimberly's colleagues had lived in our house for 28 years. Our neighbor Stan two doors up told us about seeing our house built fifty years ago, on an open field at the edge of town.

The house has plenty of yard space and an unshaded south-facing roof. We've begun a program of energy upgrades which we hope will culminate in geothermal heating and cooling and solar panels on the roof. The neighboring yards sport plenty of native and edible plants. We have begun planting trees, flowers and salad greens in the yard. They seem to be setting down roots. So are we.

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Monday, October 1, 2007

For Sale: 323 Hillsdale Drive N

NOTE: Property sold 11/27/07 for $131,000
(near 8th st)
0.4933 acre lot (84' x 247')
1,501 sq ft + 787 sq ft unfinished basement
4 bedroom 1.5 bath
Attached 1-car garage
1955 Ranch with aluminum siding,
gazebo, covered porch, storage building
MLS # 10048868
Listing Agent: Zach Craig
Broker: RE/MAX Acclaimed Properties
(details at homefinder.com)

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Neighborhood Improvement Grant

Here's the Letter of Intent we have submitted to Bloomington's Neighborhood Improvement Grant Program:

GANA currently uses temporary signs to announce monthly meetings and neighborhood events such as plant shares and parades. However, the signs are now heavily weathered due to frequent use. To establish a better sense of place (Neighborhood Plan, Objective 1.2), GANA proposes to replace these signs with permanent installations bearing the GANA logo, the words GREEN ACRES, and weatherproof, transparent slots to display meeting and event announcements. To support our goal of being an exemplary “green” neighborhood, the new signs would use durable natural building materials such as cob and recycled wood. These lend themselves to volunteer labor and diverse design (see drawings, ATTACHED).

Sketches by Nathan Harmon

We would start with simple but permanent signs at several prominent intersections and neighborhood entrances. Eight signs may require $3,200 of donated labor and $3,200 in matching funds for materials, professional services and equipment rental. Next, we would upgrade selected signs with structures and landscaping. Two sheltered cob benches with paving may require a total of $6,200 in donated labor and $7,600 in matching funds. GANA would recruit volunteers and donations from past and present neighbors, neighborhood churches and service organizations, and the local Permaculture guild.

Watch this space for pictures and further background on this project!

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Olympus Properties

GANA Speaker Series
Brett Smith
Leasing Agent, Olympus Properties

February 28, 2007, 8-9 p.m.

TOPIC: How to enhance sustainability by increasing interconnections between stakeholders and residents in Green Acres neighborhood.

That’s a mouthful, and we may not even realize that this is what we were doing during the brainstorming discussion we held with Brett Smith, but as stated in the Foreward to the Green Acres Neighborhood Plan, one of the best ways to heal an ecosystem is to "connect it with more parts of itself." Stakeholders such as landlords and rental agencies and absentee owners are included in and have a great impact on the Green Acres ecosystem.

Family-owned Olympus Properties is a management company chosen by property owners that currently oversees around two hundred rental properties in the Bloomington area. Six of these properties are in Green Acres. They include 208 and 218 Hillsdale, and 2401, 217, 213, and 218 Clark Street, with a seventh property on Hillsdale rumored soon to be theirs to lease as well.

Brett began by saying that GANA and Olympus Properties have "common goals;" that they want to help us "choose our neighbors" by enlisting our input into this effort. He handed out his cards, asking us to give them to possible renters whom we would like to have as neighbors. However, he stressed, he has to follow the law in being very careful to not discriminate, for example, on the basis of age, and so can't directly ask a possible renter how old they are. Since many of the issues faced in Green Acres (as well as the rest of college town Bloomington) have directly to do with the preponderance of temporary undergraduate student renters and their tendency in some cases to litter, over-occupy houses, park cars on lawns, and hold loud, long parties, this legal stricture not to discriminate on the basis of age is a tricky one.

Not only is it in our neighborhood's interest, but Brett says it is also in the interest of the property management company to have long-term responsible renters who follow the laws on parking and occupancy, are considerate of their neighbor’s needs, clean up after themselves, and, of course, pay their rents on time.

According to Brett, their client-owners set rental parameters for the management company to work within, and that one way they screen potential renters is to list a rent higher than market value. For example, one of the properties on Hillsdale is offered for $2000 per month, which automatically discourages undergraduates from applying, since the management company also checks credit ratings. When they find a renter that they think will be responsible, they can negotiate a lower rent with them. After all, he says, if we offer it at $1200, we’ll easily be able to rent it, but we may not end up with the renters we want. So that is the reason, he says, why posted rents are often higher than the market rate. They're used as a filter to skirt the non-discrimination issue.

Olympus actively goes after the kinds of renters they want, posting notices in graduate school departments, for example. He said that one of their properties on Clark St. has long been occupied by music graduate students who keep each other informed of when it is available. Olympus courts responsible renters—taking them out to dinner, and/or offering bonuses for referrals.

We had many questions for him, some of which he answered to our satisfaction, and others left us wondering. For example, we asked about the "For Rent" signs that seem to be up all year long and, he agreed, lend a trashy, temporary feel to the neighborhood. "Olympus takes them down as soon as a property is newly occupied" in August, he said—and then added, "we have to put them up again, so that prospective renters will know they’re available."

"When do you put them up again?"

He hesitated, before answering, "October."

"So the signs are down for only two months of the year?"

At this deduction he looked embarrassed, but added again, "we have to let people know they're for rent!" But one wonders if this is really necessary, since, at least for the Clark Street houses, as he said, several times, "they rent themselves" (presumably through internal music department referrals).

After the meeting, Georgia and Ann decided investigate the laws around signage, and see if something can be done about signs that are up just about all year long. If you wish to help with this project, please let them know and otherwise, stay tuned!

At times, during this discussion, we segued to our ever-pressing concerns, especially over-occupancy. John Gaus wondered if we could get a list of properties that have been grandfathered for over-occupancy, so that we will know which ones we can’t call HAND about. And yet, we want to be cautious about calling HAND, because we realize that some renters are wonderful neighbors even when they’re over-occupied, and others, who stay within the legal limits, are inconsiderate. As Nathan Harman succinctly put it, "It's better to have more good neighbors than fewer bad ones."

According to Brett, there are hefty fines for such things as garbage left out and cars on lawns, and that they are levied against both the renters and the owners. However, he said, don't call owners to complain about their renters, or you could be open to a charge of harassment! Better to call the property management agency, he said. Olympus, for one, wants responsible renters, and, when warnings are not heeded, will not hesitate to evict.

It may take us awhile to digest what went on in this meeting and what we learned from it. We did agree that it would be good for us to post rental and for sale notices in places like SPEA that would be likely to catch the eye of people interested in sustainability.

Ann Kreilkamp GANA scribe

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GANA Meeting Minutes

GANA (Green Acres Neighborhood Association) Meeting
2/28/07, 7-8 p.m. First United Church on 3rd St.

Georgia Schaich, Diane Dormant, Kathy Ruesink, John Gaus, Jessica Gaus, Ginny Kleindorfer, Nathan Harman, Stanley Routon, Kevin Polk, Ann Kreilkamp


  • Report on Herald-Times article on Green Acres
  • Update on the Green Acres Neighborhood Plan
  • Report on latest Small and Simple Grant
  • New Idea: Flower Power!

We discussed the H-T article and passed copies around. We passed around copies of the final draft of the Plan and decided on a venue and date for its formal release. We heard what the latest Small and Simple Grant will be used for. We discussed Flower Power as a new idea for helping to establish neighborhood identity and continuity through beauty.

The Process
Herald-Times article: Georgia opened the meeting by passing around copies of the H-T article that John and Jessica Gaus had thoughtfully brought with them. The article, by Carrol Krause, which ran on the front page of the Home section on Saturday, February 17, was titled “Sustainability is sprouting in Green Acres,” and can be found on Page Two of Carrol’s website, www.carrolkrause.com. Quoting Georgia, Ann and Tim Mayer, Carrol did a wonderful job of describing our vision and initial efforts towards sustainability. The article also featured a number of photos of the neighborhood with informative descriptions under them.

The article attracted two responses from outside Green Acres. First, Tyler Ferguson of Olympus Properties contacted Georgia with an offer to meet with GANA about our concerns for attracting renters and new home owners who would appreciate our neighborhood vision and goals. A leasing agent from her company, Brett Smith, agreed to come and and discuss these issues with us as part of our Speaker Series. (See next email, Speaker Series). And Floyd Richards, a resident of Owen County who lives on a golf course with twelve other houses, called Ann to seeking advice on how to start to green his own neighborhood. She asked, “Is there one other person you can talk to about this?” “Yes—the man who lives across the street.” “Good. Then start there!” They exchanged emails and agreed to keep in touch.

The Plan: We received twelve copies of the final draft of the Green Acres Neighborhood Plan with the request that we look it over for glaring errors. The city has already approved the document as is, so hopefully, we won’t find much. If you wish to look over this document for errors, please contact Georgia to receive a copy—and send all edits to Ann, ann.k1942@sbcglobal.net, by Tuesday morning, so she can compile them and send in to the city by the Wednesday, March 7th, deadline.

We discussed the type of venue we wanted for our “formal release” of the plan to the city and to the press, and agreed that most in keeping with our vision for the neighborhood would be the Raintree House and its grounds on Bryan, since that house, built in 1849, was identified in the Foreward to the Plan as the “cornerstone” and “lodestone” of our Green Acres neighborhood. Diane Dormant will contact IU to see if this venue is a possibility. We decided to hold this event some time in May.

Georgia also asked us all to think about the three objectives as stated in the plan and to decide which one each of us as individuals would most like to help manifest from vision to reality.

Ann recommended that everybody read the Plan, especially for its very interesting and even surprising Appendix A, a Green Acres Demographic Profile. We thank the Planning and HAND departments for their patience with our process and the very thoughtful and detailed treatment that they gave to the creation of our neighborhood plan.

Small and Simple Grant: Georgia wrote up another Small and Simple Grant, this time asking for and receiving $1000 (the limit) for the following: 1) A Green Acres Neighborhood Welcome Packet to help block captains meet and green new residents. 2) Two new printed brochures. The first “community-minded brochure” will outline recommendations for stakeholders and partners, including residents, students, property owners and the university. The second brochure will update the one we developed in 2006. 3) A new outreach special activity that will feature the outdoor showing of a movie, with food and music for students and all other residents with the goal to integrate students and other new residents into the neighborhood. 4) A discussion course prepared by Northwest Earth Institute: a series of innovative study guides focused on sustainability topics for a nine-week neighborhood discussion group. Kevin Polk said he has participated in one of their discussion courses and found it “very worthwhile.”

Flower Power: this idea, one very much in line with the objectives and goals of the new Green Acres plan, was the brain child of Diane Dormant. In her own words:

“Flower Power: one way to encourage our residents and potential residents to enjoy and maintain our area is to make Green Acres a place of beauty. There is no better or even faster way to do this than to fill the front yards with seasonal flowers. Owners, landlords, and renters could be encouraged to plant such durables as spring daffodils and late summer coneflowers (supplied at cost and, if necessary, planted by GANA volunteers). Techniques for achieving this might include online nursery sales programs (much like Girl Scout cookie sales) as well as wholesale purchases. The goal is to makes Green Acres a visible Bloomington treasure.” Diane seeks two other residents to join her in creating this program to beautify Green Acres. You can email her at dormant@indiana.edu.

The meeting was adjourned around 8 p.m., for refreshments and a break before our Speaker for this month, Brett Smith.

Looking towards spring on this snowy March day, I remain
Ann Kreilkamp
Your ever-faithful GANA scribe

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The UDO (Unified Development Ordinance)

GANA Speaker Series
Tim Mayer and Michael Diekoff
City Council Members

January 31, 2007, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m.

TOPIC: Impacts of the new Bloomington Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) on Green Acres and other issues that affect Green Acres

Mike and Tim came armed with the 1.5 inch thick UDO document which they said, though formidable in appearance, was easy to use once one understood the format. This document can be found at
www.bloomington.in.gov and is due to go into effect on February 12, governing land use and development throughout the city of Bloomington. They asked that we call to thank members of the Planning Commission who each spent hundreds of hours poring over details, fine-tuning this document.

Tim said the process started five or six years ago with the Growth Policies Plan (GPP) as a guiding document for community growth. City planning staff went into neighborhoods all over the city and talked with them and other stakeholders about their vision for the way the city should grow. Three or four years later, the same process began for the UDO, which took the GPP and undergirds it with codes that meet state statutes. Unlike zoning ordinances which just say what you can build on a particular piece of property, this document covers what is allowed to develop in entire zones.

The Green Acres Neighborhood is zoned "core residential" (RC), called "core" because of its proximity to the center. The city looks at RC-zoned neighborhoods differently because they are challenged, in our case by the dominance of student rentals. Green Acres is now, as those of us who have been attending the monthly workshops know, in the process of developing its own "sub-area plan" for the city.

Most of what applies to Green Acres can be found in the sections of the UDO identified as 20.02.090, and 20.05. I have copied the parts of those sections applicable to zone RC into the attached word doc. (Be warned: I did it quickly, and possibly inaccurately.)

Tim and Mike say that "Granny Flats" are not allowed in the UDO, at least in RC zones, though I couldn’t find that wording there, nor in any of the amendments. You might want to peruse the document yourself. Especially interesting and heartening to me is the section called "Green Development Initiatives."

5th and Hillsdale, Overhill
After many years of attempts to get a sidewalk that runs down 5th Street from Union to Overhill, Tim (who lives in Green Acres) finally got part of this item funded and on the city’s agenda for 2007. The biggest problem with sidewalks in Green Acres has been that drainage issues have to be addressed first, and the usual high-tech solution to these problems is extremely expensive. However, after consulting with both GANA representatives (Georgia, Kevin and Ann) and permaculturists Peter Bane and Keith Johnson, the city has decided to address the problem in part through green techniques to reduce the amount of water that gets to the end of the street.

The intersections of 5th with Hillsdale and Overhill are places where the worst flooding occurs. Construction will begin this summer on 5th Street, from Hillsdale to Overhill and Overhill to the end of 5th. The block from Hillsdale to Overhill will have a sidewalk as well as drainage amelioration; the block from Overhill to the end of 5th will have a new sewer line (because ground water gets into it), and perhaps a new water line, plus drainage amelioration, but no sidewalk since it’s a dead-end with only local traffic.

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GANA Meeting Minutes

GANA (Green Acres Neighborhood Association) Meeting
1/31/07, 7-8 p.m.
First United Church on 3rd St.

Photo by Georgia Schaich

Georgia Schaich, Betty Byrne, Diane Dormant, Kathy Ruesink, Rob Turner, Ann Kreilkamp, Kevin Polk

  • Additions to the Executive Committee
  • Small and Simple Grant
  • Houses for sale
  • City Repair Report, DVD, Discussion

We heard about who’s been added to the Executive Committee; talked about ideas for small and simple grants; discussed how we should respond to our alarm at the unusual number of houses for sale between Clark and the bypass; and both watched the 15-minute Intro to City Repair DVD and discussed our experiences at the recent City Repair Presentation in Bloomington.

The Process
Georgia opened the meeting with an announcement of changes to the Executive Committee (reduced to two (George and Ann) since Julia Jackson’s move from the neighborhood in September). The new members of this committee are Rob Turner, Nathan Harman, Noriko Hara, Phil Eskew, and Kevin Polk. Thank you for joining, one and all!

The next Small and Simple Grant from HAND is due February 19th. We decided to table City Repair ideas until later, and to focus for now on building active GANA membership through strengthening the block captain program. Georgia suggested that we use the grant to create "Welcome Wagon" type baskets for newcomers that would contain a brochure for GANA, trash and recycling info, coupons from neighborhood businesses and other relevant information. She will write the grant.

There are now 13 houses for sale in the eastern part of the Green Acres Neighborhood. Unfortunately, one of the them is the home of Betty Byrne, a long-time active GANA member. Betty is moving into a condo so that she doesn’t have such a big yard to keep up. We would like to help Betty, who lives alone, pack and move (at least her small things). So when the time comes, I will send out a message to the list for those interested in this next neighborhood work-party.

We realize that the ongoing and currently larger crisis of homes-for-sale is also an opportunity for GANA to focus its efforts on getting the word out to friends and acquaintances who are both looking for places to buy or rent and who also want to contribute to the vitality of neighborhood life. Kevin Polk has volunteered to take over both the GANA list-serve (from Jiangmei Wu, thank you Jiangmei!) and GANA website duties (from Julia Jackson, thank you Julia!). He will explore various web-based options and work with realtors to get easily accessible info and photos of Green Acres homes for sale on the internet for those who wish to promote or live in Green Acres.

City Repair DVD: the DVD is wonderful in that it shows lots of examples of the kinds of things Portlanders are doing to make their neighborhoods not only more friendly and liveable, but fun, creative, and even magical. On the Friday before his Saturday presentation to the city, a number of GANA residents had lunch with Mark Lakeham, an architect and City Repair co-founder, before taking a walking tour of Green Acres. We then showed him the original sketched visuals for the Green Acres permaculture/sustainability design. He liked it all, and his imagination was especially taken with the idea of turning several intersections into city-repaired gathering spaces that will express the creativity of Green Acres residents and lure the children outside to play.

His presentation on Saturday morning to the City Council drew over 100 people from various neighborhoods in the city and inspired us all to starting thinking about how to cooperatively "repair" our own little corners of the world in an imaginative, expressive way.

After a ten-minute break, we heard and discussed a short presentation on the UDO and city plans for 5th street, by speakers and city councilmen Tim Mayer and Michael Diekhoff. (Speaker Series report to follow.)

Next monthly meeting: February 28, 2007.

Blessings to all on this frigid Super Bowl Sunday!

Ann Kreilkamp GANA scribe

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