A few weeks ago I saw a legal notice about a hearing on bunch of properties that had been studied to see whether they were in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation. They spanned a long stretch of Plainfield Avenue and I though surely the prospect of change there would be interesting to West End residents.
The lots include a very large one used for church parking, various residential and commercial uses, and the site of the original Plainfield Health Center. A cemetery is south of the study area and it extends north to South Second Street.
On Thursday, the Planning Board held the hearing and only two property owners showed up. One told me he thought the room would be packed. I followed them out after the Planning Board heard the report and found the 18 parcels to be in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation. Neither one spoke in the public comment part of the meeting and did not want to be quoted by name, but we did have a conversation outside City Hall Library.
One man was retired and relied on income from rentals of property he owns. His home was also on the list. A younger man said his family in a neighboring town also needs the rental income from a building on the roster. The Plainfield man had expected a full room for the hearing, he said, and was quite sure a neighbor had not received notice of the hearing. Notice of the hearing may have gone to an out-of-town owner, we figured.
I explained the redevelopment process - the interactions of the Planning Board and City Council - and suggested keeping track of decisions by both bodies. The longtime Plainfield resident said maybe nothing would happen anyway, and we talked about projects that get approvals but don't move forward because they lack financing. I said if a project does move, affected residents and the public at large can have their say at several junctures, both at the council meetings and at the.land use boards.
The two owners were pleased to find out that a developer, once designated, would bear costs of the study and plan process, in addition to land acquisition. They were glad to find out eminent domain would not be invoked. I hope they get to future meetings and bring along some neighbors.
The hearing reminded me of why I started blogging in 2005 after retiring as a reporter two years earlier. I heard about a huge proposed project south of the main train station and wanted to spread the word. Newspapers had stopped routine coverage of municipal government and land use boards. I typed up some information and was handing it out to individuals when Barbara Todd Kerr suggested there was a better way - a blog. She created it and I began writing posts on council meetings and redevelopment proposals. And so it has gone, for an average of 508 posts a year!