Opelika and Auburn both face a dilemma that other cities and towns, large and small, all around the world face: how to preserve its history while moving forward with progress.
More civic engagement and greater sincerity among economic developers in realizing the value of a healthy balance are among the keys to finding agreeable resolution.
It is easy to understand why history lovers and peaceful residents content with status quo would like to see traditions and treasures such as historic homes and tree-lined avenues stay the same.
Furthermore, even charge-hard, aggressive proponents of growth and economic prosperity should well understand the attraction these hometown characteristics can bring to fiscal goals.
Reality is, however, that with growth and progress comes change, and century after century, nation after nation, village after village has had to grapple with finding the right balance of preservation vs. development.
Opelika most recently studied the issue of church-owned properties of historic value being turned into parking lots or having meaningful buildings razed for more useful developments to replace them, and city ordinances were revisited and revised.
Auburn has for the past several years remained in constant conflict among preservationists and developers on what historic homes or old store fronts should be torn down and where new parking decks and massive housing projects should be erected.
The Cullars home in Auburn, located on 369 S. College St. next to the Auburn University president’s home, was built in the late 1800s and was purchased by Orange Development, LLC. in August 2017 from a group of investors.
“It’s just so important to the history of Auburn,” Auburn Historic Preservation Commission member Donna Bohanan said of the home and its story. “The house and family represent the close relationship between the community and university that made Auburn special. It would be a real tragedy to see it go, and Auburn has lost so much historic property.”
Nevertheless, the most recent symbol of the community’s town-and-gown legacy in jeopardy could be razed 60 days after its current property lease ends Oct. 4.
Easy answers and cheap solutions remain elusive in such debates and dilemmas, but a caring township will involve plenty of citizen participation and consider only respectful developers.
Our city leaders must continue to realize those needs as well, along with their own critical role of responsibility in ensuring those types of parties are at the negotiating table.
From there, the best applicable process for compromise has its best opportunity to emerge, and the results, though not always popular, must be respected.