Commission approves relocation, compensation for Hyde Park residents

After years of attempts to devise fixes for the beleaguered Hyde Park neighborhood, a plan to relocate and compensate residents won Augusta Commission approval Tuesday.

A measure to reallocate about $2.3 million in sales-tax funds to pay for the design and initial phases of land acquisition to build a massive detention pond at the site passed 6-3-1.

Commissioners Jerry Brigham, Joe Jackson and Wayne Guilfoyle opposed the measure. Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles abstained, saying his family owns property in the area.

Jackson and Guilfoyle cited concerns expressed by property owners who don’t want to move, Brigham questioned the availability of funds to complete the entire project, which Engineering Director Abie Ladson said will cost $18.2 million.

Most of about 26 Hyde Park residents or homeowners who attended the meeting cheered, but a couple opposed the plan. Elizabeth Moore, whose parents lived in Hyde Park from 1950 until they died, questioned whether nonresident homeowners would be adequately compensated.

“It’s immoral for the government to take family land in this manner,” she told the commission. “I am in disagreement with the sale, due to the un­fair compensation for all landowners.”

After the meeting, Moore continued to question the city’s intent, saying flooding was rare in most areas of Hyde Park, and children continue to be educated and play at a Head Start center at the site despite concerns about contamination.

“I just find it strange that you’re going to flood 44 acres near two rail lines and the airport,” Moore said.

Ladson said construction of a detention pond at the site will alleviate flooding in nearby Wilkinson Gardens and other neighborhoods.

Relocation will be handled by the city’s Housing and Community Development Department. Director Chester Wheeler said resident homeowners without liens on their property will be provided homes of the same size or smaller, if they desire to downsize. Renters will be provided residences at the same rent, he said.

Nonresident homeowners will be paid fair market value based on two appraisals, Wheeler said.

The area has seen plummeting land value since the 1990s, when a nearby factory was the subject of a $46 million cleanup. Later, elevated contaminants in the soil and groundwater were traced to a nearby junkyard, which was the subject of a $10 million Superfund cleanup.

Hyde Park residents skeptical about relocation plan

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