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Posted: October 4, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Discussion of park in Fairview Est. continues

Residents remain unsure, but say on right path

 Fairview Estates residents remain concerned about the effect of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program in their community, but outright objection has given way to cautious support for many of the residents after Thursday’s meeting between county officials and neighborhood leaders.

 The county chose Fairview Estates for its NSP because the neighborhood had the highest percentage of foreclosures in Newton County. The federal program allows local government to purchase, rehabilitate and resell foreclosed homes in an effort to stabilize housing prices and help get families back into homes. The program also allows government to buy foreclosed land and build public facilities to benefit the community, like parks.

 Although the NSP is intended to have a positive effect, when Fairview Estates residents first heard about the program they saw several potential negatives and were upset that they weren’t given any input in the selection. They said they didn’t even know about the project until a few months after their neighborhood had been selected.

 Thursday’s meeting between residents and county officials was set up by District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz in an effort to explain the program in more detail and receive resident input.

 Residents were most concerned about the public park inviting more crime into a neighborhood already plagued by break-ins and drug dealing. They said having an 18-acre open space would be a haven for that activity.

 County officials said they couldn’t promise crime would stop, but they have helped the neighborhood begin the process of forming a neighborhood watch. Sheriff Ezell Brown was in attendance and he said that his office would patrol the area on a regular basis, but he said it was up to the residents to call in any activity they see.

 "We don’t know those things are going unless you call us and report it … we’ve

already started being proactive in your community," Brown said. "If you want to take back your community that is what we’re planning on doing, taking back your community … but you have to be nosy, so you can’t just go in your own glass bubble and expect to take care of your neighbors down the street."

 However, residents did agree that the area would be more aesthetically pleasing, and if the county properly maintains it and residents keep a vigilant eye on illegal activities and people staying the park past dusk, the park could work.

 Another major concern for the residents is whether the presence of a park and the purchasing of homes at foreclosed prices from the bank would hurt their home values. Some residents have expressed a desire to move, but with the current market they can’t sell their home, and if prices go down they’ll be in an even worse situation.

 Members from IECDG, the non-profit group that is running the NSP program for the county, attempted to assure residents that prices would go up, because the neighborhood would contain less foreclosures and the park would actually raise the value.

 One of the most crucial factors, which could sway support in favor the program, is if control of the homeowners association is finally turned over to the residents. Currently, SunTrust owns so many of the foreclosed properties that it is in control of HOA, but once most of its properties are bought, the residents should be given control. This is important, because residents have been paying HOA fees for years but have never received any of the promised amenities, including a swimming pool and other facilities.

 IECDG President R.J. Fields said his company will help the residents organize their HOA and get it on the right track.

 Not all concerns were answered, and more meetings have been scheduled with the county and the Sheriff to gather more input and create a plan that satisfies everyone.

 "We’re not like the developers who came in and left the community or came from outside the community, we live here. It’s important for us that we work with you to address these concerns and ultimately we want this project to be something you are proud of," Schulz said.

 Lecia Davis, a neighborhood leader, said after the meeting that she feels the groups are on the right path.

 "We’re moving forward and we need to keep the lines of communication open," Davis said. "A park would help the subdivision if done properly."

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