After months of postponement on an issue that required expedited fixing, the City Council has once again given constituents in Northwest Auburn a plethora of reasons for outrage.
Residents wanted an ordinance that would prevent student housing from being built in long-standing, historically black and traditionally single-family neighborhoods.
They didn’t want to be encroached upon by houses clearly made and clearly priced for students.
They didn’t want to be blocked in by students’ cars on weekends.
They didn’t want to have college students as neighbors, who undoubtedly bring with them parties, loud music and other activities sure to disrupt a family neighborhood.
They didn’t want to have their property taxes increased to unexpected, unaffordable levels.
They didn’t want student houses, which are referred to as academic detached dwelling units in the ordinance, and they didn’t want their neighborhood to become gentrified.
Gentrification is simply a respectable word for robbery. Because of what developers have built, the people of Northwest Auburn are being robbed of their homes. They are forced to either bite their tongue and deal with these assured detriments or leave the homes and neighborhood many of them grew up in. Dealing with the detriments, however, is often financially impossible. Thus, the displacement is forced, and their home is taken by the developers’ need to make a quick profit.
How else does one label the act of taking something — a home, property, land — from a person? It is robbery, and the Council earlier this month passed an ordinance that will allow the plunder to continue because of the last-second amendments attached to the ordinance.
Before explaining the amendments of the ordinance, it’s important to note some members of the Council were clearly confused at the meeting.
Even after repeatedly extending their own deadline for months so they could get more information, the Council — still misinformed — couldn’t even agree that there was a problem in the first place.
Ward 8 Councilman Tommy Dawson repeatedly said people should be allowed to sell their property, adding that he saw no problem. This has been a constant refrain of his. Dawson is ignoring the fact that no ordinance, ever, can prohibit people from selling their property; thus the ordinance doesn’t prohibit people from selling, it limits what developers can build, for the benefit of long-standing residents — not the handful of developers squeezing the sanctity from neighborhoods, hungering for insanely profitable student houses.
Dawson is ignoring the ordinance’s intention of protecting residents — not developers. He is ignoring how the ordinance would have protected these neighborhoods from development that would price out residents and force them to sell to survive.
But the developers spoke their grievances, and to appease them and their checkbooks, the Council attached amendments.
The first amendment states that ADDUs are a conditional use in neighborhood redevelopment districts east of North Donahue Drive. The original ordinance recommended by the Planning Commission didn’t allow ADDUs in NRDs.
Now, thanks to the amendment, ADDUs can possibly be approved in the neighborhoods on Frazier Street and Canton Avenue.
The Plainsman has repeatedly reported on these areas and documented how the black residents living there are being forced to leave, lest spending their retirements in financial peril. They’re gentrified. Development is robbing them of their homes.
And it’s going to get worse because the Council cannot, for the life of them, agree to help the residents of Northwest Auburn. Instead, the City Council throws the community they are supposed to protect under the developers’ huge, shiny buses.
Maybe the Council believes that what little is left in this neighborhood is not worth saving. In fact, this was one of the many things discussed in their two-hour-long meeting.
There are too many student houses on Canton and Frazier already, they said.
Tell this to the few remaining residents who are holding onto their historically black neighborhood for dear life. Tell this to the residents who have been robbed by greed, who have been gentrified. If a team was losing and they followed the Council’s logic, then they’d give up because what’s the point?
The point is things can change — but not anymore.
The second amendment states ADDUs are permitted by right in redevelopment districts east of North Donahue, mainly located along Bragg Avenue. The initial proposal was that they would be a conditional use in RDD. This, again, makes it easier for developers to build ADDUs. What a surprise.
Dawson, Ward 4 Councilman Brett Smith and Ward 3 Councilwoman Beth Witten have all been against this ordinance since day one, at least back when the ordinance was actually beneficial to the residents of Auburn. They have been the least sympathetic to the issue of gentrification. This was evident when they each voted in favor of these amendments.
This was evident when they voted against the whole ordinance, even if it had their lovely amendments attached to it, because they saw no problem worth fixing.
It’s despicable. It’s expected. And that’s the tragedy in all this. Many dominoes had to fall for us to get here, the first being Auburn University’s unwillingness to house students at an affordable price.
The University, our city government and the developers who say there’s no gentrification should be ashamed.
We dare you to look these residents in the eye and explain to them why their homes, their neighborhoods, their place in this city is meaningless, because that’s the message being screamed in their faces right now.