We’ve waited three weeks to hear council’s decision on the South New Towne plat, and we’re going to have to wait at least another two. Aldermen voted Monday to lay over the vote, in front of a packed house both inside council chambers, outside council chambers, and in the main lobby.
The topic remains a sensitive subject for the City of Rockford, as it tries to relocate residents from the West side Fairgrounds Housing Project to a proposed East side housing project, to be built on South New Towne Drive.
Complicating matters is the perception that the introduction of low-income housing to the East side neighborhood will cause an increase in crime and introduce new safety concerns to the neighborhood. Concerned residents cite the recent example of a shooting and murder that took place at Fairgrounds over the weekend.
The Codes and Regulations Committee voted to approve the plat three weeks ago, which sent the proposal to City Council for a full vote.
The proposal has been a very highly debated topic, with the neighborhood group Together Rockford sending aldermen a petition against it once again, before tonight’s vote. One of the main sticking points has been the lack of availability for community involvement.
Rockford Housing Authority CEO Ron Clewer argues that wasn’t the case, and that this wouldn’t be as bad of a plan as the residents of South New Towne think. But others believe there are better options.
“(There are) a lot of foreclosed homes around here that we can rebuild,” Winnebago County Board member Eli Nicolosi said, about other options. “There’s so many other different options, instead of just pushing this through, especially when it’s against so many residents’ wishes.”
“Take the houses that are empty, and that are re-purposed and have no one living in them, and they’re just being damaged by the weather and everything. Put money in to the houses and then … let [Fairgrounds Housing Project] families live there,” Nan Branham, who’s against the South New Towne proposal, said, echoing Nicolosi.
“I understand people may not like [a low-income housing project] in their neighborhood, but I think that’s because they’re picturing Fairgrounds as it sits, right this moment, and [they think] that’s what’s coming to their neighborhood. That’s not at all what’s coming to their neighborhood,” Clewer argued against popular opinions of the type of residents who would be living in the proposed housing.
The plat will be up for approval again in two weeks.