Back in April, we found ourselves on one of those little side roads that run off of First Avenue between TSYS and Bibb City, in the area that will come to be known as City Village.
There, we met Lisa, who had bought a small house and an adjacent vacant lot on a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee. Her plan was, and is, to build a house on the vacant lot where she can retire and enjoy evenings looking down on the river and into wonderful sunsets.
But she was having trouble with the city. Across the street from her house is a stormwater drain, which is normal enough. But it flows into a large, maybe 18- to 24-inch metal pipe that runs underneath her house and drains down the hill toward the Riverwalk and the river. It would cause erosion problems, but the city doesn’t seem to be concerned. And it’s far enough down the hill to not present a problem for Lisa’s existing house and certainly not the one she has planned.
Anyway, that’s how we left things back in April. Then last week, I was covering a regular Columbus Council meeting and listening to first readings of rezoning requests. (Yeah, it’s a glamorous life I lead. It’s OK to be jealous.) One of the rezoning requests was for an address that rang a bell. It was Lisa’s lots, and she’s asking the city to change the zoning from RMF2 (Residential Multi-family 2) to RMF1 (Residential Multi-family 1). That will allow her to go forward with her plans to build her dream house overlooking the river.
“Things are moving slowly,” Lisa said. “But I’m going to build my retirement house.”
Back in April, the lot next to her, where the new house will go, was piled high with garbage that people (and even the city itself) had dumped there. She had trouble getting the city to clean it up so she could move forward, but they finally came through.
“They cleaned it off and did a good job there,” Lisa said. “A lot’s happening down there.”
But there’s still the issue of the drain pipe flowing straight out of the side of the hill.
“They won’t fix it. They said they would buy the house from me because they can’t work on private property,” Lisa said. “I tried to offer to swap that lot for the one that’s next to me on the other side, but they said they were saving that for the City Village redevelopment.
“I was a little bit insulted, because I kind of like AM redeveloping. I’m kind of a part of that.”
Lisa reminds me a little bit of businessman Buddy Nelms, who was one of the first people to see the potential for a renaissance in downtown Columbus … and to invest in it. One day there should be a statue of Nelms downtown commemorating his vision and his courage to invest before anyone else would.
And similarly, I would hope the city would do whatever it can to assist people like Lisa, who is diving into a blighted area first, while others are still in the talking stage.
Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at 706-571-8570 or firstname.lastname@example.org.