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In most communities, finding enough qualified people to volunteer for a community planning board isn’t easy. And, typically, attending a community planning board meeting during the week isn’t exactly the hot-ticket event. Not so in Kensington, where nearly 150 residents decided between eleven qualified residents for eight open seats on the Kensington/Talmadge Planning Committee.

On Wednesday evening, March 11, the scene outside of the neighborhood church was abuzz. Residents filled the sidewalks down Marlborough Avenue. Volunteers from local community groups canvassed the area, passing out stickers, campaigning for votes for their slate of candidates.

Community involvement is nothing new to the Kensington/Talmadge area. But there were other reasons for the evening’s high turnout. During the past two years, several issues have divided the community, some say resulting in the weakening of the influential Heart of Kensington (HoK) community group, which endorsed eight of the eleven candidates.

The restoration of the Kensington sign, the fight with developers and community members over the Kensington Terrace project, and the recent historical designation of two 100-year-old trees at the Kensington/Normal Heights Library have involved Heart of Kensington members. Many residents say the expansion of the library was thwarted by a

Heart of Kensington member who, as an individual, decided to nominate the trees as historic.

That issue appeared to be on everyone’s mind during the planning committee meeting.

Minutes before the election’s results were announced, resident and candidate Celia Conover, wearing a Heart of Kensington sticker, addressed the audience during the public comment portion of the meeting. “There’s some difficult conversation starting to emerge in our community about the trees and the library expansion. This was not done as a specific stop point for the library expansion. We all treasure our trees, our library, and our park.”

After Conover’s speech, resident Pamela Hubbell took the mic. “With the issue of the trees being designated as a Heritage Grove, my disappointment is that it occurred at the direction of one individual in the community. The planning committee was not informed, and the folks at the library that were working on the library’s expansion were not informed. I’m disappointed with the process. The Heart of Kensington group was not involved as a group at all as an effort to achieve the historic designation.”

After all comments were heard from the public, the results were tallied. Out of the eight candidates endorsed by Heart of Kensington, five were elected. Two of those nominees — chair Tom Hebrank and vice-chair David Moty — are considered independent of the community group.

An active member of Heart of Kensington (who wished to stay anonymous) wrote in an email that, despite mounting differences, the group isn’t weakening, just leading by example. “I don't think HoK's position has been weakened. I do think that, based on our leadership in the community and our success, other groups have followed in our footsteps to get their "faction" involved and voting. There's nothing wrong with that — that's exactly what we want: a community that is involved.”

The eight elected members of the planning committee are: Tom Adam, Frank Doft, Tom Hebrank, Tom Hoyt, Kevin Kelly, Danielle Laman, Fred Lindahl, and David Moty.

Go to the next meeting of the Kensington/Talmadge Planning Committee on the second Wednesday of the month to find out more.

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Comments

LocalResident March 18, 2009 @ 8:01 p.m.

The turnout for this meeting was terrific, and all agree that having more active participation within the community is helpful. Last year, the Kensington Terrace project was front & center and brought a lot of votes in from Kensington. This year Talmadge is facing more immediate concerns and the turnout reflected this.

The Heart of Kensington is anything but broken, but continues to advocate on behalf of Kensington for appropriate development.

Hok was successful last year in collaborating with the developer to reduce the size and impact of Kensington Terrace to reflect the desires of the community. The project has since been scaled even smaller and HoK is in strong support.

To clear up a continuing misconception, the effort to save the historic Kensington sign was spearheaded by concerned residents, independently of HoK, as was the more recent designation of the Historic Grove and Landmarked trees of Kensington Park.

Both efforts were made in the interest of retaining Kensington's (and the City's) key historical resources, not to divide the community.

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