Jasper needs more rental housing

Posted 12/27/18

Let's clean out the notebook ...• I noted with interest the Jasper City Council's decision to side with Airport Road residents to turn down a zoning proposal that would have led to a $6 million, …

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Jasper needs more rental housing


Let's clean out the notebook ...

• I noted with interest the Jasper City Council's decision to side with Airport Road residents to turn down a zoning proposal that would have led to a $6 million, 56-unit housing development on Airport Road for people ages 55 and over - like myself. The local zoning board had already approved the rezoning. 

Gateway Management Co. in Birmingham said the one-story brick structure was very much needed, and even after it was turned down, they said they might look at the area again in another year or so. Residents said the development would create more traffic and cheapen surrounding property values, as well as create an environmental problem. 

Mind you, not only am I 55, but I also live off Airport in an apartment. I don't know if it would have been affordable to have such an apartment, but there was an opportunity.

I know the concern for traffic on Airport Road and such, but I am very concerned where we go from here. And not just for the elderly. 

I'm going to be blunt: We need more rental property, period. And not this government rent control stuff - that is great and well for many in that income class, and I hope we never run out of that. But there is a shortage of apartments for professionals who can't meet those maximum income requirements, sending them scurrying elsewhere. 

This is not just me being concerned about it. I talked about the problem with other professionals and city leaders, and they acknowledge that particularly when companies hire new people to come in, they have few places to send them. For new companies to come in and bring in employees, they are going to want to see better housing opportunities than what we have now. And we don't have it.

That is why it was quite disappointing to see the outcome, which left the whole thing uncertain for the future. I hope Gateway Management comes back and looks some more. 

But if not on Airport Road, where? I would hope city leaders figure out some potential spots that they feel would not meet opposition, if they have to purchase land themselves and market it to developers. I've been preaching this for two years, and nothing has gotten done. We have to have a plan for comprehensive rental housing in this area, or we are going to sink. That is all there is to it.

• It was clear that Jasper shut down for Christmas. I was somewhat surprised to see McDonald's off Highway 118 was open Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day (the latter from 1-8 p.m.) I saw one or two more places where there may have been meals served. As for myself, Dad and I drove all the way to Florence, where Shoney's remained open for Christmas Day turkey dinner buffet. It wasn't bad at that, and the drive gave us time to talk. But if you don't want to eat at a breakfast place for Christmas, you have to do some hunting. 

• I noticed Northside Baptist Church will be screening the movie "I Could Only Imagine" Sunday at 5 p.m. I can recommend that as a great Christian movie, really better than average. I would take advantage of it if you haven't seen it. 

• People, get the ark ready: The latest forecast at this hour is calling for 4-6 inches of rain in Walker County and the surrounding area from today through Tuesday. 

• Wednesday was the 195th birthday for Walker County, as it was formed on Dec. 23, 1823, from parts of Marion and Tuscaloosa counties. (We were named after Alabama U.S. Sen. John Walker, who I know nothing about.) As we are gearing up for the state's bicentennial, we need to start thinking about our own for the county in five years. For that matter, in four years the Daily Mountain Eagle will mark its 150th anniversary, in 2022. 

• My long-time tradition is to send Christmas cards - I send about 40 a year. But that may be winding down. I only got a dozen cards back, and I've heard more people say they didn't send cards this year. I see more taking to Facebook for a send-it-all-at-once moment. Of course, texting has become a major event on Christmas, as friends and family text each other like crazy. 

I can remember all those wonderful Hallmark Hall of Fame movies, with the commercials which were like mini-movies, extolling the virtues of sending a card. I would hope we don't forget that virtue, as I got a lot of positive response later from people who didn't even send a card. I worry we have gotten worn out from Christmas to take such time. That would be a tragedy, as I think the old slogan still gives a better reason to take that time: "When you care enough to send the very best." 

• Sometimes when you take a subscription or an ad, all that you may see, or think you see, is that you are taking a news product or getting promotion. And you do, in fact, get that. 

But it occurred to me today that sometimes you don't see other ways in which your support of the newspaper helps the community.

A good example came this week, when someone contacted us about problems perceived about getting medical attention for an inmate at the county jail, at a time when it is hard to get in contact with others. I made a call to someone who go the ball rolling, and within an hour communications were back on track to at least possibly get more attention for evaluation and treatment. We could make a big deal about it, but getting medical attention was more urgent than a story, so we worked to resolve the problem instead. 

I normally wouldn't mention it except it struck me to pass along that is the type of thing that we sometimes do to help out. We're not rushing out to make everything an exclusive story. Sometimes we are handling inquiries about people who need connections, even resources or information, such as finding phone numbers for legislators or congressmen. 

(Thankfully, in the internet age we do less of the who-do-we-call inquiries. I've sometimes joked they think we are the New York Public Library. One day recently someone wanted to know how to get with the Department of Agriculture. After I started asking questions, I found out they really meant they needed to talk to Danny Cain at the Walker County Extension Office, which was a little easier to help with.) 

But the newspaper also sponsors events, and even provides information materials (our booklet on the Foothills Festival was passed out by the city information booth, for example). Also consider that we have the Facebook page, which has been used for immediately updating major events, such as weather events or elections. 

So when you take a subscription or an ad, you are not just getting advertising or getting a news product. You also get a community resource behind-the-scenes that is willing to help the public make connections to people they need to get to, or to sponsor events or organizations to benefit the community. They don't teach that in journalism school, but it is a part of our existence and our community role. 

We hope you will continue to support all of our roles as we go into 2019, and we hope you have a prosperous year as well.