Mention urban renewal to residents of a neighborhood and their reaction is likely to be fearful, accompanied by complaints to City Hall. But the visions of bulldozers leveling Dlder sections of cities as part of urban renewal are not necessarily true, as residents of the Garden Homes Subdivisión are learning. More than a year ago residents there, desperate to get some type of program moving to upgrade their neighborhood, voted for a neighborhood development program incorporating urban renewal. And thus far the project appears to be working. "At first a lot of people didn't want it at all," says Fred Model, chairman of the Garden Homes Association. "There was a lot of fear, and a great deal of speculation and apprehension about what might happen. But up to this point the program has lived up to its end of the bargain. There's still a little apprehension, but things are going as well as expected," he adds. The 77-acre subdivisión was annexed into Ann Arbor in 1969 in an attempt to end problems generally associated with Appalachia. A 1986 survey by the county Health Department showed that 12 homes still used outhouses, and seven families had no running water. Poor soil conditions and a high water table were making septic tanks inefEective and at times raw sewage was visible in fields of the subdivisión. Annexation into the city, residents there hoped, would allow the subdivisión to hook into Ann Arbor's sewage and water systems. But delays in adoption of a course of action have hindered this, and even today there are still nine families with no water supply (including wells) and seven still using outhouses. Because of health problems, permits for septic tanks and wells are no longer being issued. Program officials Philip Wargelin and Laurie Williams say construction of a water main for Garden Homes began recently, and sanitary sewer construction is scheduled to begin early next month. Street lights and storm sewers have already been installed, and by next fall it is hoped all the improvemcnts will be finished. Urban renewal is paying for all of this work The two-year project is being financed by a $2.5 million grant, with the city providing $700,000 of this in non-cash items. Expenditures in the first six months of the program have totaled about $450,000. Before the subdivisión accepted the urban renewal plan, it discarded at least three proposals for other means of development. These included connection with the Model Cities program, rezoning the land to allow a higher density, and making improvements via special assessments. The rezoning proposal drew the greatest controversy, and before it was dumped it went to the point where plans were already drawn up for redevelopment of the neighborhood into commercial areas and for townhouse development. Model notes that the commercial and townhouse proposal would have helped some residents gain a higher price for their land, but those who wanted to remain would have had additional problems. What eventually turned the tide away from the commercial rezoning, Model says, was the neighborhood's strong desire to remain that - a neighborhood. A study in April of 1971 showed that Garden Homes is one of the most established neighborhoods in Ann Arbor, with 78 per cent of the residents having lived there more than 10 years and 48 per cent having lived there more than 20 years. Besides the utilities improvements, the urban renewal program is also helping redevelop the homes in the subdivisión. City building inspectors checked out each home to determine what is needed to bring them up to code, and the residents are then eligible for low interest federal loans and outright grants to pay lor the improvements. Homes that have been condemned or require too much rehabilitation will be torn down, with the government buying the property from the owner. Residents are also eligible for relocation grants of up to $15,000 towards new homes, in addition to the money they get from their property. ine government has also added a first-time option to the Garden Homes renewal program. Since there are many large lots in the subdivisión, the renewal program permits the home owners to sell a house in poor shape to the government for demolition, but the owner is allowed to live in the house until a new home is constructea on that same lot. In all other urban renewal programs in the past, the government has insisted on purchasing all of the land and moving the family out. In a progress report to City Council this week, Wargelin noted that of the 65 homes in the subdivisión, 41 will be rehabilitated and 24 will be sold to the project for demolition. The project acts in the form of a holding company, paying the residents who must leave and receiving the money from the resale of the land. Another key feature in the program is the control the residents who remain will have over the future development of the subdivisión. The home owners' association will interview developers who propose to build new homes on land there to approve the plans. A preliminary plan for replatting the subdivisión Ás now being considered by the Planning Commission. This plan will provide 63 new building sites in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, and includes four parks and a greenways system totaling 12 acres.
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