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Opelika citizens want to jump-start Carver-Jeter plan

Opelika citizens want to jump-start Carver-Jeter plan

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Opelika’s Carver-Jeter Area Master Plan is getting new attention from the citizens who live there.

The plan, originated by city officials and citizens’ groups in 2014, was intended to revitalize those areas of Ward 1 and Ward 2 that had fallen into neglect, along with Opelika’s downtown.

Downtown Opelika has enjoyed a renaissance, with multiple shops and restaurants opening up in recent years; however, the Carver and Jeter neighborhoods continue to lag behind.

Local NAACP Branch 5038 President Billy Allen, former county commissioner John Harris and other local NAACP members are working with city officials to get the Carver-Jeter Area Master Plan going again.

They met in March with City Planner Matt Mosley to get an update on the plan’s progress, and now they are gathering citizens’ input on what needs to come next.

“We want to let the residents in Carver and Jeter and those neighborhoods to know that we are going to give a report back to the city of Opelika and, in that report, we are going to prioritize projects that they identify as the most important to be done,” Allen said last week. “…We are not going anywhere. We are going to make sure we support, assist and monitor this plan.”

Some progressOriginal plan proposals included traffic improvements, removal of derelict housing, a small business incubator, bike/walking trails and renovation of existing single-family homes, plus citizens’ boards to help oversee different aspects of the plan.

There have been improvements over the last several years. The city council recently approved a plan to build a new, bigger $12 million public library. There has also been street art and beautification efforts, some removal of abandoned houses, establishment of a community garden and sidewalk repairs; but many of the initiatives have not been realized due to a lack of money and/or volunteers willing to spearhead the work.

That appears to be changing. Parker Hamilton is leading an ad hoc committee to work with the city on execution of the plan. She, Allen and city council members George Allen and Erica Baker Norris met with Mosley, who committed to publishing regular updates on the plan’s progress.

The first update is posted on the city’s website: www.opelika-al.gov/154/Carver-Jeter-Revitalization-Plan.

“So now, we’re about the business of talking to residents, looking at it and saying, ‘OK, what does this really mean? What does it say? What’s the impact and where are the results?’” Hamilton said. “…We’re asking them to respond to the plan and help us when we respond to the city, identify gaps and to help us prioritize when we respond back.”

CooperationAllen said the point is to work with the city to effect these changes, not to criticize anyone.

“We want to make it perfectly clear that we are partnering with the city; this is not an adversarial type operation,” Allen emphasized. “… We are going to work with them (city officials) to make sure this is done.”

Hamilton and Allen said this first step is to find out what people in the Carver and Jeter neighborhoods think is most urgent. They encourage residents to read the above mentioned plan update and then contact them with suggestions – email carverjeterplan.naacp@gmail.com or call or text Hamilton at 240-401-9243.

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