When you look at Shorter Avenue headed out toward West Rome, what do you see?
Or for that matter, heading out of town in North Rome or as you turn onto Martha Berry Highway from Turner McCall.
You know what you’re leaving behind — a beautiful town rich with purpose and life — but turn that around and drive into Rome for the first time.
Now what do you see?
What we see is large swaths of our town that really, really need some hard work and some investment.
We’ve heard recently of private investors who seem to be interested in working with the city to redevelop the corridor on Martha Berry Boulevard.
A public-private partnership to clean up and bring growth to that area is a great idea. Looking at the Martha Berry Boulevard corridor for instance, we can easily see medical offices and possibly apartments designed for younger members of the medical community.
Stepping further into that idea, taking any new developments and making them pedestrian friendly would further expand into micro-community, which could serve as a recruitment tool for up and coming medical workers. Especially as the Floyd Medical Center and Atrium Health deal works toward fruition.
It would also connect pretty nicely to the downtown area with a little thought.
But we can’t just depend on private individuals to step in and fix our community issues — we need to work on it from within.
Something that may help in the redevelopment of our corridors is already in the works.
Our zoning practices need to change as the culture of business changes. Revising our Unified Land Development Code is a complicated and cumbersome task, but it’s a job worth doing.
We need to be figuring out ways of bringing in new business and expand existing business. We need to have the flexibility to figure out how to tell builders that we can make a plan work, instead of being handcuffed by what is now an outdated set of rules.
Since it was developed in 2001, the voluminous document has been updated piecemeal but time has gotten ahead of it and the lack of flexibility often holds up new projects.
The ULDC is primarily based on a single-use function. THIS building is a home, THIS building is a business, THIS building is ONLY used for this one thing.
Things have changed.
Technology has created new possibilities; we need to look at the true potential in spaces. For instance, a home may also be a place of business. We don’t need small businesses running afoul of our city and county guidelines because we haven’t tackled the task of updating those guidelines.
Technology and industry demand a new way of thinking — one which incorporates creativity, vision and imagination. And there is no shortage of that in this community if we allow those voices to be heard.
Businesses and builders need to not only be able to access our zoning codes but also be able to interpret them correctly. The city commission has already discussed streamlining smaller zoning variance requests, rather than putting projects on hold for minor requests.
We need to expedite the assembly of an updated zoning document that allows for flexibility while keeping protections for neighborhoods intact.
Another topic that’s caused more of a stir recently has been the idea of annexing neighborhoods and property into the city limits. Annexation of the neighborhood would mean residents would pay city as well as county taxes, but they would also get city services.
The important point about that topic to remember is this: the city isn’t attempting to force-annex anyone into the city limits.
From a resident’s point of view, take the Celanese or Riverside community as an example.
It’s completely surrounded by the city but doesn’t have city services and upkeep. Children in that community traditionally go to the Model schools and longtime residents would more than likely resist being annexed.
However, neighborhoods change and newer residents may differ on that point. For a new resident, consider the idea of a parent having to drive past Rome High or Middle School to get to Model High or Middle School, several miles farther down the road.
New residents of that community could easily be confused as to why they’re surrounded by the city limits but not within them.
Our community is changing. While it’s generally human nature to resist change, we must also remember that some change is for the better. We must (individually and as a community) learn to hold on to those traditions and values worth maintaining, while also welcoming those changes that are positive.
“Because we’ve always done it that way” is the worst excuse for dismissing new ideas and methods.
Thank you for reading.