Westside residents and Chattanooga Organized for Action will meet at 6 p.m. today at Renaissance Presbyterian Church, 1211 Boynton Drive. The meeting will feature a documentary on the right to housing called "More than a Roof" and will be followed by a discussion on the state of housing in Chattanooga.
Westside residents attending a meeting of the Chattanooga City Council's Housing Committee thought they were going to comment on a proposed plan that could put a new, mixed-use community in their neighborhood.
That didn't happen.
Nearly all of the audience seats were full at the Tuesday meeting, but no residents were allowed to speak.
"This is a farce," Landon Donard of Chattanooga Organized for Action yelled during the meeting. "We told you we were coming."
In an email to Westside resident Roxann Larson, president of Dogwood Manor's Resident Council, Councilwoman Sally Robinson wrote: "I am appreciative that you will come to the work session on Jan. 31 and I will be certain your group is recognized to ask questions then."
But during the meeting, Robinson, the committee's chairwoman, told residents they could only ask questions when the meeting ended.
"This is a work session," said Robinson. "It is not a public meeting."
The residents are worried about a proposal from Purpose Built Communities, an Atlanta-based nonprofit, for a mixed-income community to be built somewhere in Chattanooga. The community, which already has locations in Atlanta and New Orleans, can include housing, schools, community services and other neighborhood facilities.
Funding to build the community would come from both private and public resources, Purpose Built officials have said.
Westside residents are worried that their homes will be torn down for the community, then they won't be able to live there once it's finished.
Mayor Ron Littlefield said no decision has been made on where the Purpose Built community would be built. The Westside, which includes College Hill Courts, the city's largest public housing site, is included among possible sites, but so is Harriet Tubman housing development in East Chattanooga and the former Maurice Poss Homes land near Alton Park.
He said a meeting would be scheduled by the end of February in which the public will be given a chance to speak.
At Tuesday's meeting, Councilman Andraé McGary, who represents Westside, said the voices of residents need to be heard.
"The major piece is the community's voice," he said. "So we certainly need to allow opportunity and lots of opportunity for the community members that are affected."
Purpose Built representatives noted that they are still in the conversation stages about coming to Chattanooga.