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Anger born in transformation of Hyde Park, Kansas City Star, May 6,1982, Dunstan McNichol PDF  | Print |

For almost a decade, the landlords and longtime residents of Kansas City’s Hyde Park district have looked on as time and change ushered in a new generation.

It is a generation of youth, fresh, paint and ambition, which has made the neighborhood, located between 31st and 47th streets from Gillham road to Troost Avenue, a model of central city renewal and prosperous urban rehabilitation.

But among the blossoming refurbished homes, some remaining members of the established Hyde Park breed resent the aggressive campaigns of their new neighbors.

In North Hyde Park particularly, located between 31st Street and Armour Boulevard from Gillham Road to Troost Avenue, some longtime Hyde Park dwellers say their new neighbors cast an intolerant glare at apparent zoning code violations, which in past years were dismissed with a wink by city agencies.

“This is a fact: that people move into a neighborhood that has not been well maintained and they spend a lot of money rehabilitating it, which is in itself an admirable thing, and then they ask the city to enforce the codes against their neighbors,” said Barbara Schenkenberg, an assistant city attorney. “Neither side is wrong. Both sides are right.”

Established landlords suddenly are force to defend their right to their apartments before the Board of Zoning Adjustment or in court.

Peeling paint, loose shingles or even significant structural decay that existed for years without controversy suddenly has brought a flurry of city summonses threatening fines or court action.

The vigilance has extended outside the houses, with neighbors, demanding limits on barking dogs and, in at least one-instance, wet laundry hung out to dry.

New residents defend their campaign as necessary to restore the neighborhood’s viability, preserve historic buildings and replenish the city’s tax rolls.

In the years since, the new generation’s arrival, houses that once sold for as little as $7,000 have been refurbished and command prices of $70,000 and more.

“This area is not the “I don’t give a damn’ anymore,” said Howard B. Jackson, 43, a former Kansas City police officer who has lived in North Hyde Park about two years. Mr. Jackson, the community’s designated liaison with city inspectors, is regarded as a property code watch dog. “it makes it bad for these people that aren’t (maintaining their homes), but you still have to have something to preserve your neighborhood.”

“Hyde Park (Neighborhood Association) has done a lot of good,” said Thema Beecham, a 12-year resident of a house at 3419 Campbell St., across the street from Mr. Jackson’s home. “But they sometimes run rough. In the long run they clean up the neighborhood, but what they do to the poor neighbors is sad.”

Officials of the neighborhood association, however, say its campaign is a burden only to those who refuse to upgrade their property. They say programs exist to help residents make and finance improvements.

Marie Frederick, who has lived at 3347 Harrison St. since 1944, claimed the repainting and rebuilding has not improved neighborhood life.

“I don’t know what all the ambition for painting houses was,” said Mrs. Frederick, who was warned by the city last spring that she would be taken to court for failing to clean up a vacant lot the city later discovered did not belong to her. “They were getting along just fine as far as I’m concerned.”

The latest skirmish is to take place Tuesday before the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

Lucille M. Lawson, a Campbell Street landlord 11 years, will attempt to overturn a ruling by city Codes Administrator Jack White that apartments in her property at 3316 Campbell St. violate zoning. The house, one of dozens of three-story Hyde Park homes converted into apartments, is zoned residential and is ineligible for apartments, city officials have ruled.

At the same hearing members of the neighborhood association, led by Campbell Street resident Charles Jasper, will attempt to convince the board that Mr. White was wrong last fall when he ruled Mrs. Lawson’s two other properties, at 3322 and 3324 Campbell St., were operated as apartments before current zoning went into place and therefore should be allowed to remain.

“For the past 15 years I have worked and I have put everything into my property so I could retire comfortably, and now these people come in and say you can’t have them,” said Mrs. Lawson, who owns several other rental properties throughout the city.

To operate her apartments, Mrs. Lawson is seeking an exemption called a certificate of nonconforming use, which remains in effect for the life of the building as long as its use remains unchanged.

“The permanent nature of a CLNU can deter and stagnate the renovation of a neighborhood like Hyde park,” lawyer James Glover III, former neighborhood association president, wrote members of the zoning board last July.

Mr. Jasper, who has registered four complaints against Mrs. Lawson’s properties in the last two years, declined to discuss the case.

“In some ways, on that issue, I’m just a little bit to the right of Genghis Khan,” Mr. Jasper said.

“I don’t know how much room there is for a tacky property,” said Joanne Stallone, a real estate agent who lives in Hyde park and sells property there. “You have a responsibility to a home; you have a responsibility to a neighbor.”

At a community seminar in November 1980, Lisa Merrill, a Board of Zoning Adjustment member and a developer who has refurbished more than 20 house sin Hyde park, outlined steps that homeowners could take to report suspected zoning code violations.

In addition, in 1980, after approval by members of the neighborhood association, Hyde Park signed up for a systematic housing inspection in return for financial aid in the construction of new curbs and sidewalks.

Inspection revealed that only 24 percent of Hyde Park homes met property code criteria. It results in blizzard of code violation notices against new and established residents alike.

Since the first inspection, vigilance by residents such as Mr. Jasper and Mr. Jackson has resulted in more complaints and notices.

“He came right in here and took over this block,” Mrs. Beecham said of Mr. Jackson. “. . . He’s sort of pest, I think,”

And Pat Dugan, who also lives on Mr. Jackson’s block, said constant city citations have kept homeowners form making necessary repairs.

“They keep you fixing the little things. It’s just hassling things.” Mrs. Dugan said.

In January, because of a neighbor’s complaints, a court ordered Mrs. Dugan to repair a small retaining wall on her property.

Earlier, she said, complaints focused on a garage. Fist, complaints cited peeling paint. When the garage was painted, notice arrived that is was unsafe and must be demolished.

After demolition, Mrs. Dugan said, the property was cited for debris in the yard.

“I guess the little person will always get hurt,” she said.

But the president of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association disagreed.

“These people aren’t what you would call the truly needy,” said Jim Merrill, Lisa Merrill’s husband. “If they want to do it (fix up their houses) they can.”

Mr. Merrill and other association members note the neighborhood organization has offered loans, free paint and assistance to residents attempting home repairs. And resident cited for code violations can appeal to the Property Maintenance Code Appeals Board, which has the power to delay enforcement while repairs are made.