Richard Hyatt

Richard Hyatt: The Ongoing Story of Rose Hill

Thomas Burnette replied to a column about the relocation of a SafeHouse for homeless people and how it has impacted property owners near Rose Hill United Methodist Church.

This is his story.

Burnette's interest in the Rose Hill neighborhood began in the 1990s when he bought and restored several houses and worked with others to revitalize what was once a proud area of Columbus.

"It had all the features urban planners insist on including in modern developments: lovely houses in need of restoration, graced with front porches for rocking chairs, tree-lined sidewalks, nearby churches, medical facilities and bus service," he said.

Then came a Neighborhood Watch and with help from the police department and the city the stigma of Rose Hill being an unsafe area was abated. Other investors restored homes, including the Alma Thomas House and the legendary artist's home joined the Black Heritage Tour.

"The old Peabody Apartments are replaced. The John B. Amos Cancer Center has been added to the medical center complex. The Ronald McDonald House anchors our neighborhood. The commercial development on Hamilton Road shows much promise," he said.

Burnette thought vindication was coming.

"My friends and family had admonished me like Jed Clampett to 'move away from there,' but we persisted, secure in our belief that our vision was attainable," he said. "I say all that to make you are aware that your decision to use your (column) to champion the recent influx of criminals and derelicts to Rose Hill Methodist Church is at best misguided and shortsighted. You have every right to your opinion but to use your position on the newspaper to champion the cause is unfair to those of us who are very negatively impacted by the action."

Then he turned to the church.

"Does the church have a right to reverse the progress we experience? Does an agency not even connected to the church have the right to occupy the building without zoning approval or approval of affected property owners? Would the church be allowed to sublease a part of the building as an auto repair shop, a pharmacy, a pet hospital without zoning changes? A church is a sacred part of a community and its influence should be positive. My case is so obvious it would be redundant to pursue it further.

"Perhaps greed is not the motive in the case of Rose Hill. But, the result is the same. Misguided Christian charity has the same negative effect and does not solve the larger problem. Can't we creatively rise to the occasion and solve the problems without running roughshod over those who are negatively impacted by the effort?"

That is Burnette's opinion. What's yours?

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at