Dear Editor,

I attended the Tuesday Port St. Joe city commissioners’ meeting last week. I have deep concerns over the a request influenced by a small group of business owners who own property on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., and want the city to rezone the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., without knowing the facts of the current Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and without the residential property owners being informed of the advantages and disadvantages of establishing a separate new Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) primarily for the business area of North Port St. Joe Community.

Sadly, it appears no plans for displacement for the residents. My intentions are not to cause anger nor cause a mean-spirit. I just only want to know the facts and allow me to make an intelligent decision that will affect my future.

As a pioneer, registered voter, taxpayer, law-abiding residential citizen and homeowner in the City of Port St. Joe, and a citizen of Gulf County, I simply requested to the commissioners to host public workshops regarding this critical issue so that the entire residents of North Port St. Joe and stakeholders receive the opportunity to be informed about the current (CRA) facts and therefore make intelligent decisions about the future of their property when compared to rezoning to establish a new (CRA).

In early 2005, the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund made a grant to Florida State University’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning to support a community planning and organizing effort in the North Port St. Joe neighborhood.

These public meetings were attended by the residential property owners who actually lived in the North Port St. Joe community, among other attending stakeholders. Together we created our Vision Statement: “North Port St. Joe Neighborhood will continue to be a viable community within the larger community of Port St. Joe and Gulf County with opportunities for all citizens. Our goal is to Keep What We Have, Upgrade It, Improve It—We Are Here To Stay.”

During this time frame in an effort to improve the economic viability and preserve the historical significance of the North Port St. Joe African-American community; the city offered public workshops and provided proper advance notice of the upcoming rezoning meetings that were published in the local newspaper.

Other community development organizations participated in educational/training workshops. FSU conducted the economic development/planning workshops. The workshops and town hall meetings resulted in we becoming informed of the economic potential and benefits associated with the redevelopment of our community and the inherent value of being in close proximity to valuable waterfront property.

Therefore, pursuant to the stated desires of the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency (PSJRA), at the January 10, 2008 meeting, the majority of the North Port St. Joe homeowners who live in their homes supported to expand the redevelopment area, to encompass the residential, business, and entire North Port St. Joe community. Therefore all residential, business, and the entire North Port St. Joe can received CRA funding, and not just limit the CRA funding to the businesses. The surveys indicated numerous times that so many homes in North Port St. Joe were below standards, unsafe to live in, and needed major repairs.

I question the integrity of a small group of business owners who own property on MLK and only want to rezone MLK Street without the current Port St. Joe Redevelopment (CRA) facts.

My question is, Who will bear the brunt of the burden when residential property on MLK eventually is re-zoned to commercial property? In view of this request to re-zone, where will these poor people live when they are displaced? The residential property will certainly be in jeopardy by slowly going out of existence.

Under the current (CRA) a majority of the residential houses, the owners’ own their homes. I have a deep compassion for my hometown Port St. Joe. We are too old in age and come too far to turn around and to take a chance to lose what we have worked honestly so hard for and might have to rebuild in another location; this is unfair to the elderly and might be a sad and grievous mistake.

Amy Rogers

Port St. Joe