An East End Small Area Plan update
By Jessi Fehrenbach
The East End Small Area Plan, the initiative co-created and adopted five years ago by city planners and citizens in Lexington’s East End neighborhood, is currently being revisited via a series of open community meetings. At the first meeting we reviewed the Plan, and people were invited to sign up to personally support one of the plan’s thirteen Goals.
At the second meeting, participants worked in groups according to which goal we had signed up to support. Since the organizational flow of the meeting demanded focus on a particular goal, I signed on to support Goal 13: “Create a green and environmentally acceptable neighborhood through the recognition of the interdependence of environmental, economic, and social equity concerns.” It seemed to fit my interests: I am currently working to help remodel a historic home, incorporating permaculture and sustainable values into a co-operative living project in the neighboring Northside neighborhood. I support the consideration of sustainable and environmentally sound principles for developments all over Lexington.Each group was invited to discuss which of the actions and initiatives listed under each goal had been accomplished, which had not (and why), and which we would like to see achieved within the next five years.
At this point in the meeting, some confusion ensued. While it was easy to mention the Lyric Theatre and other projects completed within the past few years, we spent a good deal of time clarifying which tasks were still in progress and which had yet to be addressed before we could talk about what we could hope to accomplish within the next five years.
Sherry Maddock, Vice President of the William Wells Brown Neighborhood Association, took a moment to explain the status of the Issac Murphy Memorial Garden project to our small group. According to Maddock, the project has been slow due to delays in federal funding but is scheduled for completion before the end of 2013.
The meeting was momentarily disrupted when an African-American man burst into the room ranting about where the “real” community was. Even though this series of meetings is free and open to the public, and a multi-media invitation has been sent out to all citizens who would like to get involved, he insisted that residents in the East End were not given an equal opportunity to contribute.
“He doesn’t think any of us actually live here,” said Maddock, shaking her head as facilitator Andrea James firmly requested that he either contribute productively to the meeting or leave. Apparently the man is well-known for popping up and creating these kinds of disruptions. Despite the cultural diversity of the participants in the room, it was a reminder that the histories of racial and economic tensions unique to the East End, both real and imagined, definitely impact this process.
While the Small Area Plan was clearly created by folks who love their community and want to encourage cooperative progress, one evident obstacle is the area’s absentee neighbors – property owners who do not live or work in the area and do not necessarily prioritize the maintenance or cooperative development of their property in line with the plan.
Several East End residents expressed concern about property in the area owned by the Community Ventures Corporation. The CVC, an organization that ironically provides financial education, small business and home loans, has neglected to properly maintain or develop much of the property it owns in the East End according to many neighbors.
The meeting adjourned on positive note, as participants resolved to continue reviewing what progress has been made toward each Goal outlined in the Small Area Plan. The agenda for the March meeting is to identify the next step towards achieving each action outlined in the plan. This will include establishing reasonable timeframes, funding sources, and securing the cooperation and participation of agencies and key property owners in the East End.
Open community meetings will be held at 6:30 pm on the second Tuesday of each month at the Charles Young Community Center on Third Street. Upcoming meetings: March 12, April 9, May 14, June 11.