Residents Call For Updated Comprehensive Plan Focused On South Bend’s West Side
Residents and advocates are calling for a new comprehensive plan that would focus specifically on South Bend’s west side.
At the Aug. 23 Common Council meeting, westside residents and representatives of neighborhood organizations complained of vacant lots, gun violence, speeding traffic and a lack of economic opportunities.
Marilyn Gachaw, a representative of the Lincoln-Bendix Park Neighborhood Association, said the city’s “1,000 Houses in 1,000 Days” initiative, in particular, left her neighborhood “disjointed.”
“Those lots have become neglected parcels of property with no homes,” Gachaw said. “They attract illegal dumping – which contributes to unsightly blight on the urban landscape – breeding grounds for rodents, and it also makes criminals feel comfortable to do their deeds in the neighborhood.”
Residents wanted to know what neighborhoods west of the St. Joseph River could look like if the city invested in their economic development and repair.
“On the east side of town, there were all these studies that were done to determine what was needed downtown, on the near east side as far as housing, as far as retail,” Gachaw said. “That’s the kind of study we want for the west side.”
A resolution co-authored by council members Henry Davis, Jr. and Lori Hamann called for such a study –– it asks urban planners to consult with those westside neighborhoods and update the city’s comprehensive plan based on their needs.
South Bend’s last comprehensive plan was approved in 2006, and was meant to serve as a 20-year guide for the city’s economic development. Since then, amendments have been added as neighborhoods develop their own individual plans.
“So we have some of the more affluent neighborhoods with resources to develop their own neighborhood plans, but then you have other neighborhoods that are not represented that just have to carry through on that 20-year plan,” Hamann said.
She said the resolution would allow the city to adjust the comprehensive plan to better serve those neighborhoods that aren’t able to make auxiliary plans.
The city is currently in the process of developing plans for the Kennedy Park, Rum Village and Near West Side neighborhoods, and an updated comprehensive plan was proposed as part of the city’s 2022 budget.
For those reasons – and that the resolution focuses on a specific part of the city – council members Eli Wax and Rachel Tomas Morgan took issue with the resolution.
“I’m just not sure that this resolution actually addresses the issues that I’ve heard people raise tonight, but I’m committed to addressing those issues in other ways,” Tomas Morgan said.
But with the city’s 2022 budgeting process underway and an influx in dollars from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, council President Karen White said it was the right time to consider a more specific plan.
“All districts are not the same. All districts – they don’t need the same things other districts may need,” White said. “The timing is just perfect, and I think we have to be intentional.”
The resolution ultimately passed 7-2, with Wax and Tomas Morgan voting against it.
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