Friday, October 23, 2009

Urban Problems in Rural Georgia

As promised earlier, today I report about our field visit Tuesday to Hawkinsville, Georgia.  Hawkinsville/Pulaski County is a small community (population 10,000) south of Macon.  Its primary industry is agriculture, and it has an award winning regional hospital. The people of Hawkinsville are hospitable, smart and creative.

Unfortunately, Hawkinsville has the very urban problem of declining housing stock in its core.  Actually, I should say that this is a pretty common problem in communities of all sizes. Hawkinsville is not the only town I know of in rural Georgia dealing with delapidated housing.  Fortunately, Hawkinsville is using some old urban redevelopment laws in a creative new way, and has established its own redevelopment authority. HURA, as it is popularly know, has already cleared many properties and is working on redeveloping an abandoned cotton mill into affordable lofts.  (View a blog about the history of Hawkinsville, including the cotton mill, here.)

Our little delegation to Hawkinsville included my colleague Matt Bishop of UGA's Archway Partnership, and my former student and current client Heather Benham of the Athens Land Trust.  Matt's background is in public administration.  As Coordinator of Operations at Archway, his job is to connect university resources to communities in need of expertise.  Heather was a student in the clinic six years ago, and is now an expert in her own right on community land trusts.  We had a great conversation with Hawkinsville local leaders about the possibility of HURA forming a land trust, and how that might help them in their redevelopment efforts.  We also ate good barbeque at Sow Bellies, which I highly recommend if you're ever in South Georgia.

These types of projects are great for my students to see, because it shows the interdisciplinary nature of land use law.  It also allows my clients to mentor each other to solve common community problems. We'll continue to work with Hawkinsville over semesters to come, so I'll likely report more about their interesting and innovative work as time progresses.

Jamie Baker Roskie

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