As part of its Neighborhood Stabilization Plan, Newton County is planning to build a public park in Fairview Estates, but several area residents told the county Tuesday night that they don’t want a public park in their backyard.
At Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, seven neighborhood residents spoke in opposition to a public park during the public comments section. The residents said that a public park would simply bring more outside traffic into an already crowded, crime-infested neighborhood.
"Now, if there is a public park there will be more crime and extra traffic. It’s already crowded and there’s already too much chaos," said Wendy Rodriguez, a teenager speaking on behalf of her father." (Senior Planner Scott Sirotkin) said it would be beneficial to the community, but it wouldn’t be beneficial to us. We would have no control over it."
The park is scheduled to be built on an undeveloped 18.14-acre lot of land south of Fairview Road and Crestfield Circle, between Hinton and Lakeside circles. Besides the concern over the extra traffic and crime, residents don’t want a park because 10 percent of the undeveloped lot was promised to them by the Fairview Estates Homeowners Association for a club house, a recreation area and a swimming pool. The association has not come through on that promise and residents don’t think it will, but they feel the money they’ve been paying to the association entitles them to a piece of this land.
A public hearing was held for the NSP project, but residents said they didn’t even know the county was planning to build a park until one of them saw a recent NSP article in The News.Residents also expressed concern about
main part of the $1.74 million NSP program, the purchasing and rehabilitating of foreclosed properties in Fairview Estates. Residents said were concerned about what type of people would be moving into the homes, and whether the character of the neighborhood would be negatively affected
Resident Lecia Davis said she isn’t too concerned about that aspect, because she’s researched the NSP program and realizes they are guidelines on who can buy the rehabilitated homes. However, because the residents didn’t learn about the program until recently, they have many questions and feel like they have been left out of the loop.
The NSP project is taking place in District 3, and area Commissioner Nancy Schulz said she would like to meet with a couple of representatives from the neighborhood to discuss the planned park and NSP program in more detail and get everyone on the same page, before the county moves forward. County officials and neighborhood representatives, including Davis, are meeting on Friday.
"I want to make sure they hear everything we have to say. We’re not trying to undermine anything that is good for the county, but we were taken advantage of a lot in our community, so a lot of people are not trusting," Davis said.
Davis said several residents are in the process of trying to start up their own homeowners association and are setting aside money to retain a lawyer. She said that under the neighborhood’s covenant, the current homeowners association Heritage Property Management is supposed to turn over the association to the residents after seven years. Although the neighborhood is approaching its seventh anniversary, Heritage has so far refused to discuss relinquishing control.
Sirotkin said the county decided to build a park, because there are already a large number of homes in the market, so more housing is not necessarily needed or beneficial. Sirotkin said the county was looking for a unique way to help stabilize a community and it decided to build a park because there was a vacant lot of land and because several different communities are very near that location. He said previously that the park would be a passive park, which means it would be mainly for walking, as opposed to active parks, which contain ball parks, swimming pools and tennis courts.
"I think we looked at a park because it was one of the specific examples HUD (Housing and Urban Development) gave of how NSP funds could be used," Sirotkin added in an e-mail.
If the county decides not to build a park, the money could be used to purchase more homes of for other purposes, but the county would have to get approval from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in order to change its plan, Sirotkin said. When asked by The News, he said he did not know if the park could eventually be sold to the neighborhood association in order to have it be a neighborhood-resident-only facility.