In the historic neighborhoods in downtown Newnan, the white signs with red letters seem to be everywhere.
“City of Homes, NOT Apts.” The signs then remind people of the upcoming meeting of the Newnan City Council on July 16 at 6:30 p.m.
At that meeting, the city council is set to vote on a proposal to place 340 luxury apartments at the old R.D. Cole/Brown Steel/Caldwell Tanks site on Broad Street. The planning commission has recommended denial, but the council has the final say.
The signs – and the community organization behind them – are an example of American democratic action at work. Opponents of The Residential Group’s plan to transform the old industrial site have networked, coordinated and created a memorable visual image that is hard to miss.
The message on the signs, however, leaves much to be desired. Apartments are, after all, homes.
While Newnan’s City of Homes moniker has its roots in the preserved architectural gems from the antebellum and Victorian eras, it is inaccurate to suggest that one must reside in a detached single family dwelling to have a home.
Apartment dwellers eat meals together, talk over the day’s events, make grocery lists, take out the garbage, plan vacations and sharpen their pencils to figure out how to pay for band instruments and summer football camp.
Renting instead of owning a home doesn’t necessarily indicate how long a resident plans to stay put, so labeling all renters as “transients” falls short.
They have dreams and aspirations for themselves and the people they love, just like the folks who live in houses.
The signs smack of “my home is better than your home” – probably not intentionally, but a message easily intuited by folks driving by.
There are plenty of reasons to oppose the apartments. The density issue has been broached, and some residents have raised concerns that a great apartment complex today might be a less welcome neighbor 25 years from now.
On the other side of the ledger, having people in luxury apartments in walking distance of downtown businesses could be a financial boon.
The city's 2014 Livable Centers Initiative plan suggested uses for the Caldwell Tanks tract ranging from a sports arena to a parking area, but mixed-use and/or commercial was seen at the top priority.
The property is unlikely to remain vacant for long in the current economy. If the tract cannot be rezoned, then someone will find a use that fits the current zoning.
The debate over the merits of the apartment proposal will continue, but maybe it’s time for a new message that doesn’t demean good people whose homes happen to be apartments.