They came for answers. But after two-and-a-half hours, they left with the same questions. This is what angered about 40 residents who attended last week’s Detroit City Council hearing on the $56.7 million Graimark development project.
"No one seems to want to tell us what’s going on," said Joseph Horn, a 21-year resident of the east side neighborhood, who spoke at the hearing.
With the city’s approval, Graimark Realty Advisors Inc. and Pulte Home Corp. are to build about 400 private homes valued between $135,000 and $155,000 on 88 acres bounded by East Jefferson, Marquette, St. Jean and Freud. The city owns about half of the land, Graimark owns about 10 percent, and the rest is owned by residents.
Under the plan, the city would acquire homes from residents through condemnation and convey them to the private developers. Each resident would negotiate a relocation settlement with the city; however, it is unclear what that amount will be.
It is not only losing their homes that angers residents; many feel the city has not answered many of their questions about the development plan since its inception 22 months ago.
"No one can make an informed decision," complained Karen Dumas, one of the residents who requested the hearing. She said that they do not know when or how their properties will be appraised or how much money they will receive for relocation. They also donknow whether they will be able to purchase new homes equal in value to their current homes and cannot make moving plans without this information, said Dumas. She and others said they have been asking the city and others heading the project the same questions for nearly two years and cannot get any answers.
When Mayor Dennis Archer’s assistant Felix Sharpe said that all the residents’ questions will be answered at two informational meetings next month, residents grew angrier. Even City Councilman Nicholas Hood III, who chaired the meeting, grew impatient with Sharpe’s response. Hood said that residents will grow increasingly discontented the longer they have to wait for answers.
"Let’s get people out of the situation of not knowing what is going to happen," said Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr., who criticized Sharpe for not answering residents’ questions at the hearing. "It’s an appalling situation," he said, and suggested that Sharpe and others meet with residents in one week.
Others complained to the City Council, which approved the Graimark project in a 5-4 vote last year, that they simply did not want to move from their homes. Many have lived in the neighborhood for more than 40 years. The group wore green satin ribbons commemorating the land they will be forced to leave.
"I love my community," said Kenneth Walker, who has been in the neighborhood for decades. "We are a close community and this has been very debilitating for many of us. I don’t want to live in another part of the city."
According to last year’s report by the City Planning Commission, which recommended that the development plan be approved, about "170 families and 43 individuals will have to be relocated." There are about 68 homeowners and 640 residents in the area, the report says.
Residents also said that they do not oppose the plan, but the way it has been handled. Their attorney Ron Reosti said that the residents do not want to stop the project, but "will seek legal recourse if the process continues as it is."
The informational meetings regarding the Graimark project will be March 11, from 5-9 p.m., and March 13, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on the first floor of United Auto Workers building, 8731 E. Jefferson.