Northport hosts open house; residents remain concerned over community center
Northport residents attend open house for plan preview
By WVUA 23 Student Reporter Avery Boyce
City leaders offered residents a taste of what the future could hold Aug. 28, showing off the Northport Compass Comprehensive Plan.
Northport Director of Planning and Inspections Julie Ramm said these open houses give residents a way they can learn about the city’s developmental plans and share their own ideas or causes for concern.
“Once we receive all the feedback from tonight, from residents, council members and then our planning committee and zoning board, we’ll take those comments and then finalize the document,” Ramm said.
Project Manager Jason Fondren said the plan’s goals are improving transportation, infrastructure and Northport’s economy while guiding the city through expansion.
One of the first improvements that need making, he said, won’t be visible but is more important than anything above ground: sewer system upgrades.
With more residents comes an more sewer use. If those pipes get overloaded, they they can break or clog.
Northport residents, though, have concerns that they’re not being considered as this plan moves forward.
“I think there’s a disconnect with what the citizens spoke about and collaborated on in those meetings,” said Northport resident Pat Geddes. “They weren’t just sitting back and listening to (project manager Fondren) talk. They were collaborative, and what we talked about in those meetings was not yielded in this presentation tonight.”
Geddes has been present at all vision planning meetings save one. He said he feels Northport leaders aren’t listening to the community’s concerns, and he’s disappointed with the information touted at the open house.
“I came in very hopeful and I’m leaving underwhelmed,” he said. “I thought the information presented was good, but it wasn’t thorough.”
Other residents also questioned the data and studies being used to make city decisions. One major question residents continue having is why leaders are shutting down the popular Northport Community Center on Oct. 1.
The center, currently run by the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority and rented out multiple days a week, will return to city management at the end of the fiscal year. Along with that return comes the possibility of the community center and the land upon which it sits will be sold to a local development group.
City leaders have proposed groups that rent out the community center can instead use the nearby Robert Hasson Community Center.
There are no plans for a new Northport Community Center in the Compass Plan.
According to the website for the developmental plan, there are two more community meetings scheduled about the project. The next meeting will be in October.