The City Council has apparently got the message loud and clear.
While no Gadsden flags were present at last Thursday’s public meeting, the sentiment was not only clearly present but was apparently felt.
How no one could see the oncoming backlash is beyond me. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how this East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority has been one giant misstep after another. It’s clear that the powers that be are simply used to no one paying attention to what’s going on and treated the roll out of this “authority” as just another one of those situations. I mean look at the public meeting that was held; they obviously expected the turn out to be so light that they didn’t even bother to have a PA system in place.
In East Ridge we have some businesses that are deemed “undesirable” and the city leaders were looking for a way to force out those businesses while securing the land for redevelopment to foster a new wave of growth and prosperity. Anyone who saw the boondoggle that took place between Superior Creek Lodge and the city over the years knows that using codes enforcement to force out a business is a very expensive, very hard thing to do. The city found a problem with the property, took the owner to court and he fixed it.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
When they finally managed to find something they could shut them down over – a “life-safety issue” with the city contended that the building could fall down all on its own – the owner found a buyer for his property and sold it to someone in the exact same line of business before he could be forced to sell for some low-ball offer to a developer with a “higher purpose.” Hence the talk of “teeth.” Learning from its mistakes the City Council then took upon itself to create an “extended stay” ordinance, revoking grandfather privilege and force the “undesirables” to clean up.
The problem is that politics came into play and when special interest showed up to the council meeting the ordinance got watered down to the point that it did nothing new.
Of course a lot of folks got upset and showed up to the city council meeting, and I even got yelled at by a councilmen during a meeting as I sat in my seat in the audience. I guess he didn’t like the fact someone pointed out he was bending to special interest. So the matter was tabled and never brought back up again. I mean you can’t be a politician with aspirations and get caught bending to special interests, and you can’t pass something and stop those special interest checks from flowing in. Best to do nothing.
So the mayor started talking about how we need a way to clean up East Ridge. That there is a lot of blight and we need to rid the city of it to attract new, vibrant stuff. I along with others signed his petition to create the East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority to rid the city of blight.
The idea is simple. Find a property – maybe a boarded up home, maybe a flee ridden motel where people keep getting shot. Find a higher use for the property. Go before the council to get the use approved. Force the sale of the property via eminent domain. Redevelop said property.
The rub comes from the fact that when designing a redevelopment district you can’t cherry pick, it needs to include both the boarded up house and the one next to it. It has to include the flea ridden motel and the grocery store next door to it. This comes with issues, as “Henry Homeowner” living in his ancestral home with the manicured lawn isn’t going to like having his house subjected to being in a redevelopment district and being forced to sell his property.
So the city put responsible limits and guidelines on what types of property could qualify for a higher purpose _ unoccupied, unkempt, multiple code infractions, structurally unsound… WAIT, I forgot they didn’t do that at all.
Nope, they lumped it all together. The properties of ill-repute were lumped in with shining gold star properties that were well kept. Beloved businesses were swept up with the seedy neighbor-scorned business next door. And this is where the entire plan began to unravel like Aunt Betties hand-knitted scarf after three winters.
For some unimaginable reason the citizens living in these homes working every day and spending two-thirds of their salary on mortgage payments didn’t like being swept up with the boarded up foreclosure properties next door.
– I hope you know sarcasm when you read it my friend. –
They organized and fought back! And, it looks like the aspiring politicians on the dais don’t want to face a future miserable defeat the likes of which Bret Lambert recently experienced in his run for county commissioner. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, just a journalist at his concession press conference, to note that a majority of those choosing his opponent did so because he supported the redevelopment authority.
Suddenly, despite knowing full well what they were voting on all along and the language included in the documents and potential backlash it would create, these fine, upstanding, aspiring politicians have become vocal advocates for property owner rights. I mean there were a lot of words in that ordinance and it’s entirely possible they didn’t have the time to read the whole thing before they voted “yes.”
Sure, the council goes on and on when debating the merits of replacing a fence somewhere in the city. But they gave the discussion surrounding the housing and redevelopment authority at least a good five minutes of their time. And, that should count for something!
Nope. Sorry. I call this for what it is. The angry mob gathered, and for the sake of future political lives the members of the East Ridge City Council immediately blinked.
I hope in all of this the council has learned a very valuable lesson. While the number of people paying attention week in and week out can probably be counted on two hands and a foot, tread lightly because those that wake the sleeping bear get mauled.