April 9, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Plans for a public housing development in south Augusta hit a roadblock today. Augusta commissioners now say they don't want the development built there.
This comes less than two weeks after some city leaders toured a development in Atlanta that builders say is similar to the project they want to build on Deans Bridge Road.
Also in March, several homeowners went to a meeting to protest plans to build in their neighborhood.
Augusta's Housing Authority has already purchased 20 acres to build the new units.
Today, the developers were hoping to get support from the city to make it easier for them to get funding for this project.
After coming here to meet with people in south Augusta and neighbors taking that trip to Atlanta to see this type of housing firsthand, the Atlanta developers thought they'd at least done enough to get support from the city.
But Augusta commissioners had their minds made up, and there was nothing the developers could say to change it.
After coming to town twice before, speaking with concerned neighbors and leaders about the planned public housing project off Deans Bridge Road, the developers were back to ask for written support from the commission--support that would help them apply for tax credits to get the money to start the project.
But city leaders said no.
"It's real disappointing," said developer Bruce Gunter. "I think it's a gross mischaracterization of what we're trying to do, and we're trying to build the finest housing in South Augusta."
The developers say the housing would build up the community, being mixed use rather than solely low income. However, neighbors stood firmly in opposition.
"Our neighborhood will go down in value, and I think it will increase in crime," said south Augusta homeowner Howard Chetham.
Even though Mayor Deke Copenhaver says he's standing by the neighbors in south Augusta, he believes this type of project in Augusta is necessary.
"I think we need it badly here," he said. "Once again, it worked in Atlanta and cities throughout the nation, so it helps to alleviated poverty, which was not done with projects in the past, where you basically isolate poverty by putting all the low income in one area."
While this vote certainly makes it harder for these developers, they plan on coming back to meet with city leaders and neighbors again in a couple of weeks. They say they are not giving up.
While some people say the simple solution is moving the project to the Laney Walker area, they've already purchased the land in south Augusta.