Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably well aware and have very strong feelings about what took place on Wednesday evening at Superior Creek Lodge. Just in case your unaware or one of those few who get there “facts” from social media I will give you a short recap.
On Tuesday night Interim City Manager and Fire Chief Mike Williams gets a complaint from a citizen about Superior Creek Lodge. The Fire Marshal happens to be in the area so he texts him and asks him to check on it. This complaint was not anything to do with the structure or safety of the buildings. While on site investigating the complaint, the Fire Marshal notices an issue with a support structure. Due to the fact that it was late, and dark, and he could only really see with a flash light the Fire Marshal decides a trip is needed back the next day.
On Wednesday morning the Fire Marshal and the Building Inspector go to Superior Creek Lodge and conduct an inspection. The things they see that are clearly visible are bad enough that they decide they need to do a deeper inspection and actually peel siding off and take a look at the things that can’t be easily seen. It’s upon doing this that the City along with consultation with the State Fire Marshal took steps to condemn two of the Superior Creek Lodge buildings at about 7 p.m, Wednesday night.
The following Thursday morning they look at the remaining two buildings with a structural engineer who decided that they are in bad enough shape that he would not be willing to sign off to allow these building to remain open. At which time they are condemned as well.
Let’s just say these three paragraphs have launched a storm of cataclysmic proportions on social media.
There are people dancing in the streets about the death of Superior Creek Lodge. Others whispering about how the shutdown of Superior Creek Lodge was just the beginning of a City take over and redevelopment of this prime piece of commercial real estate. Finally, there was the few who worked hard to stay above the fray and make sure the families and children who found themselves displaced through no fault of their own were provided for.
I want to say that my heart goes out to those displaced families. They remained calm, and civil when it would have been extremely easy to take an opposite path. These citizens of our city thrown out in the street.
Mike Williams, during Thursday nights City Council meeting, said he called everyone; the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Red Cross, and others trying to organize help for these families for the reality that was about to happen. Due to the fact that the displacement was not caused by a disaster, the only organization willing to step up was the Salvation Army. So it was left upon the great citizens of the City of East Ridge to take care of their own. The East Ridge United Methodist Church opened their doors and others soon followed. People were calling the state and other agencies trying to organize help.
However, the narrative in the media was not about community coming together to solve a problem. It remains focused on Superior Creek Lodge being condemned. For those not in our community it appears as just another closed down blight in a town filled with blight.
That’s not the narrative you want told if your a city working to change its image. The words “East Ridge” and “condemned” two weeks in a row on every TV screen in the tri-state area aren’t doing us any favors. Now I understand in both cases it had to be done. The safety of citizens trumps bad press every day of the week.
My thought isn’t on what’s been done because rolling back the clock is impossible. It’s on how to avoid letting history repeat itself.
I would like to see the City Council generate a landlord ordnance that requires inspections of rental property both commercial and residential in the city of East Ridge. Let’s not allow East Ridge to be home to slums of any type. Furthermore, let’s make sure there are stiff fines or penalties for failing to keep your buildings from falling into disrepair.
Let’s make sure this situation doesn’t happen with any other extended-stay motel or apartment complex in the city. Let’s take a proactive approach and make sure property owners are doing what is necessary to keep the property in good repair and from becoming a drain on the neighborhood. No taxpaying citizen should be forced to sell their home below market value because a slum exists next door.
I’m not a fan of government regulation. I understand there is a fine line. I would not be happy if the city used strong arm tactics to force its will upon any lawful business. At the same time the hands-off approach has been responsible for landing us in this situation.
If we continue to follow the status quo we will end up like many cities in America. We will have a prosperous business district near the highway where you wouldn’t want to live, but don’t mind shopping. We will have the end of town where you only want to live if you have to. Then we have the middle where you pray every day that the end your closest too doesn’t slowly creep up and swallow you.
I have no doubt that Superior Creek Lodge will reopen. I imagine, and have heard news reports, that repairs will be made so people will be able to come back should they choose. Those repairs if done properly means that it will be a long time before those buildings find itself in this situation again.
The same cannot be said for the other extended stays and other commercial apartments in this city. Let’s work with them to preform inspections and generate a list of items in need of repair so proactive work can take place to ensure even more citizens are not displaced. If it’s an eyesore let’s work with owners to take steps to turn that around. If its not an eyesore let’s make sure it doesn’t become one.
Let’s break the cycle and figure out how to move forward in a proactive manner working with property owners and landlords to ensure the protection of both the citizens who are tenants of these properties and the homeowner’s next door.