Oakwood Neighborhood Asserts Boundaries, Adopts Bylaws

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Sunday, November 2, 2014, 1:26 pm
By: 
Sarah Slocum

On Saturday, November 1, 2014, the Oakwood Neighborhood Association held a formal meeting at which votes were tallied, officially adopting bylaws and asserting the boundaries of the neighborhood. Those boundaries are in accordance with maps provided by the City of East Lansing. About 25 neighbors gathered at the home of Alice Dreger, Aron Sousa and Kepler Domurat-Sousa for a potluck. The meeting and party were to mark the completion of the voting process on the new bylaws.

Voting was open from October 27 until November 1 at 8 p.m., and informational packets and ballots were hand-delivered to houses, to maximize inclusion and participation in the decision to establish formal bylaws for the association. Eligibility to vote was limited to those who live in the Oakwood Neighborhood boundaries as recognized by the City, are at least 16 years old, and have resided in the neighborhood for at least one continuous year. Passing of the bylaws depended on a simple majority of those voting. A total of 32 neighbors, including two high school students, registered “yes” votes, with none voting “no.” The bylaws were therefore unanimously adopted.

Neighbors brought their homemade dishes to share as well as their neighborhood and city issues to raise. City Councilmember Ruth Beier is a member of the association and was at the party/meeting to participate in the discussion. Among items of concern and interest to the group are:

  • building projects like the proposed changes along Valley Court and Evergreen Street;
  • concerns about the abandoned and boarded-up apartment complex at the corner of Evergreen and Valley Court;
  • traffic changes resulting from any new multi-household buildings;
  • loss of property tax dollars resulting from agreements the City has made with developers;
  • boundaries of the Oakwood Neighborhood as they have changed from a larger area noted on City documents about 10 years ago, to the smaller area;
  • continued relationship-building with the MSU student population in Oakwood, such as with the Phoenix Coop, through such venues as the Community Relations Coalition (CRC). Helen Hagens has been serving as our CRC represenative.

The Bylaws can be seen by clicking here. Readers may note that Oakwood has elected to follow its tradition of eschewing formal officerships in favor of a loose system of spokespersons, known colloquially in the neighborhood as “head comrades.” Current head comrades are Devon Glass, Karessa Wheeler, Sarah Slocum, Ruth Beier, and Alice Dreger. These are people who are willing and able to function as point people for the neighborhood. In practice, Oakwood functions as a loose, friendly collective that operates by consensus.

Oakwood has operated for many years (forever, to our knowledge) without formal bylaws, but many active in the group felt it necessary to pass bylaws because of a fear that the Glencairn Neighborhood Association might absorb Oakwood’s properties without consent from Oakwood homeowners. As Oakwood could not obtain a promise from the Glencairn Neighborhood Association leaders not to declare boundaries that include Oakwood, several Oakwood head comrades found it necessary to draft bylaws and convene a formal vote asserting the neighborhood’s existence.

Oakwood is known for old houses, ranging from the 1910s through the 1930s, for having a high percentage of student rental houses within its Historic District, for its plethora of rainbow flags, for its abundant gardens, for its proximity to downtown, for streets so narrow that the East Lansing Fire Department uses it to practice turning corners with the big trucks, and for the friendliness of its community.

The Oakwood Neighborhood members anticipate continuing to get together to further build a sense of community and to work toward improvements in the City of East Lansing as a whole.

Image: Houses along Marshall Street in the Oakwood Neighborhood in a photo taken today.

Disclosure: Sarah Slocum is a homeowner and head comrade in the Oakwood Neighborhood. She drafted the Bylaws that were passed. ELi’s publisher and President (Alice Dreger), Community Editor and Entertainment/Food Editor (Ann Nichols), Treasurer (Mike Lawrence), and contributing Government reporter (Chris Root) are also homeowners in Oakwood.

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