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Church Hill Businesses Protest City's Vision

But businesses are arriving, says Carolyn Worssam, president of the recently formed Church Hill Business Association and owner of the Church Hill Herb Shop, a garden and gift store at the corner of Marshall and 25th streets. "It's just slow."

She cites the veterinarian who recently moved in across from her shop, the dollar store coming to the site of the old Rite Aid on 25th Street, and plans for an ice-cream shop and grocery store in the corridor. "Businesses need to be in a critical mass to survive," she says. Worssam believes if commercial growth is encouraged, 25th Street could become a "shopping and dining destination."

However, Mark Strickler, director of community development, says the area can't sustain that kind of growth. The current B-3 zoning has instead created "inappropriate uses," he says, such as auto shops and towing services. Many other properties are "languishing in speculation," he says, owned by investors "hoping someday, something will happen."

The proposed rezoning would stall business deals now in the works, say others. Roha Palk, who owns Triangle Takeout and a beauty-supply store in the corridor, has made plans to demolish two houses on a corner of 25th Street and move a restaurant there — unless the area becomes residential. Joe Carson has a sales contract on two properties he owns that would be voided, he says, if the 900 block of 25th Street were rezoned. He also wants to know if taxes will be lowered and landowners compensated, if rezoning decreases land values.

Carson, Worssam and others also say the city had tried to "railroad" the rezoning by allowing no time for the planning commission to revise the plan before City Council voted on it. Vice-Mayor Delores McQuinn, councilwoman for the 7th District, told them last week that she and the planning commission would consider the proposed changes before taking any further action. —

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