To the editor:
The citizens of Mobile need to be aware of the systematic elimination of homes and property owned by African Americans in the Spring Hill area. The process begins when the wealthy real estate investor buys a home or lot in the black neighborhood, has the property rezoned from R-1 Residential to B-1 Commercial, decreasing the value of adjacent and nearby homes. This has occurred on North McGregor Avenue, including the black neighborhoods on Sheips Lane and Mordecai Lane. Neighbors can only sell their homes at decreased values or live next door to the commercial property. This process continues until the goal is achieved, elimination of black home ownership in Spring Hill.
The most recent outlandish request is for the rezoning of land previously owned by an elderly African American woman and currently owned by St. Ignatius Catholic Church. The acquisition of this land by St. Ignatius has been a well-kept secret. The land is to be purchased by Dr. Mary Edmonds, owner of Spring Hill Animal Clinic, and real estate investors. Plans include rezoning to build an animal clinic next door to the homes of African Americans and Mt. Hebron AME Zion Church located on Knowles Street. The church has been in this location for over 140 years.
On Aug. 1, the staff of the Mobile City Planning Commission recommended denial of this rezoning, noting among other things that “the subject site is bounded to the North, South, East and West by R-1, Single-Family Residential Districts.” Yet, the five white volunteer members present at the Planning Commission meeting unanimously recommended approval of the rezoning from R-1 Residential to B-1 Commercial. The residents of Knowles Street and the Sand Town Community Action Group have made our strong opposition known at that meeting and to our District 7 Council Representative, Mrs. Gina Gregory.
There are many other options for the development of this property under its current zoning. We hope that the City Council of Mobile will do the right thing, support the staff recommendation of denial and vote “NO” on the rezoning of this property at the public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 24.
Barbara K. Smith, President
Sand Town Community Action Group
“The oldest African American neighborhood in Spring Hill”
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