East Ridge "redevelopment" meeting turns into shouting match
Several residents told Channel 3 they're afraid of losing their homes or property and they simply don't trust the city's plan.
East Ridge residents are not happy with the city's new redevelopment plan, despite some changes that were made at their request.
The original plan targeted abandoned buildings and homes. Now, it's being redrafted to remove any mention of homes after many residents expressed concerns.
On Thursday, a jampacked public meeting was held at the East Ridge Community Center. The meeting was so intense it turned into a yelling match. Several residents told Channel 3 they're afraid of losing their homes or property and they simply don't trust the city's plan.
Though city officials say their homes are safe, many residents are pushing for another way to redevelop their neighborhood.
"Where is the writing that they’re not going to touch our property. They said these houses are blighted and they need this redevelopment plan; No, they don’t. They have the code enforcement. If they’ve already cited all of these houses over and over as the plan says they can condemn them that way," said Shirley Bedwell, an East Ridge homeowner.
Chairman of East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment, Darwin Branam says condemnation is an option.
"They can bulldoze it down and the owner of the property will still own the land but you can’t require them to come in and re-development it,' said Branam.
Others questioned why their homes were included in the plan in the first place. According to Branam, its a state requirement.
"The state statute requires that anytime you have a redevelopment plan you must provide for the displacement of individuals whether it be a business you take or whether it be a home you take. We had to put it in the plan even though we had no intention whatsoever of displacing anyone." said Branam. "We have no intention of misleading anyone to anything. We have nothing to gain by it. I think there was a lot of misunderstanding when the plan first went out. Our letter was not very clear as to what was going to happen. We could not put everything in the letter. We could not make it crystal clear. That’s what we were hoping to do tonight."
While officials go back to the drawing board, residents say they want more transparency going forward.
"They don’t have to come up with this vague plan so they can just go after whoever they want," said Bedwell.
Branam says he doesn’t expect his team to finish redrafting the plan for at least a couple of months. He says they plan to have more public meetings throughout the process. City Council still has to approve the plan.