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Property Battle in Augusta: Hyde Park Residents Confused, Angry Over Relocation

For the latest on Hyde Park, visit this link for all of our reports. Photo: A Home in Hyde Park ready for demolition (Newschannel 6, WJBF-TV).

As the city of Augusta, GA continues to relocate residents of Hyde Park, some are expressing serious concerns with the lack of transparency in the process.

The city is taking  370 parcels of land to build the “Hyde Park Regional Detention Pond” at a cost of over $18 million.

For years, residents have felt unsure about when they would be relocated. In 2010, a report by the Augusta Chronicle suggested residents “could be relocated within two years under the newest plan to transform the neighborhood into a stormwater retention pond.”

In 2012, a report suggested relocation could take five years, citing Augusta Housing and Community Development Director Chester Wheeler.

But residents who spoke with Watchdog Wire claim they have never been sure of the timeline. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to concerns the city would take action against them.

“I talked to person who worked with Chester Wheeler,” one female resident said. “They said it will be at least two more years before some get relocated.”

Without firm dates and deadlines, residents are confused about what they should do in the meantime.

“People let their homes run down waiting to be relocated,” the woman continued. “People are in debt and are now being told to relocate.”

The city has said it plans to relocate 25 homes a year. Renters were moved out last year, and the city has begun relocating homeowners.

VIDEO: Watchdog Wire featured on Augusta local news report

Another resident told me she has no idea about the relocation timeline, saying that she is confused about the process.

“I heard there were different phases,” she said. “I heard there were going to be four, now I’m hearing two.”

“I was initially told it would be two to four years, but I heard from another resident it could be just a few weeks,” she continued.

Watchdog Wire has reached out to Augusta for comment and clarification of the relocation process. When they respond, we will update this story.

In the meantime, residents are left hanging and wondering about their financial futures. One resident who spoke to Watchdog Wire is concerned she will be paid less than others because she doesn’t live in the house anymore.

“If you did not live in house, you would not get as good of a deal,” she said. “My mother lived in that house until 2008 when she died. Because she died, we expect we won’t get much compensation, just the value of the land.”

Watchdog Wire previously asked the city about the compensation situation, but they did not answer the question or provide documentation pursuant to an open records request.

Last week, Newschannel 6 in Augusta reported that residents are allowed to relocate outside of Augusta, meaning that taxpayer money funding the project is leaving the area.

The city recently faced an $8 million dollar shortfall and borrowed at least $2.8 million from the reserve fund in recent years.

“You can go anywhere you want to go. They’ll pay for it, that’s the only thing I heard,” according to resident Michael Jones, as quotes by Newschannel 6.

Watchdog Wire was able to obtain documents showing at least some of the information sent to residents. According to the documents, the city will give a family at least 90 days notice before they must move.

Josh Kaib

Josh Kaib is the Assistant Editor of Watchdog Wire. Twitter: @joshkaib

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