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Riverdale Businesses: ‘It’s Do Or Die Time’

An entourage of Riverdale business representatives plan to pack the South Boston Planning Commission’s Dec. 9 public hearing on the town’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan in an effort to squash long-term plans for the Riverdale business area.

According to Bunny Propst, representative for the Riverdale Business Group, merchants want South Boston planners and council members to eliminate the long-term plan that shows no buildings along the Riverdale Gateway by 2030.

“It will be a wetlands park if they have their way,” said the owner of Riverdale Auto Sales in an interview earlier this week. “We want them to just get rid of the long-term proposal, and that has been our position all along.”

“The Town of South Boston is still set on creating a business dead zone on the Riverdale Gateway, buying all the businesses one by one and turning the area into a wetlands park by 2030,” she said in a letter to the editor published on today’s opinion page.

According to the proposed Comprehensive Plan, which Propst said “is so close to adoption it is scary,” the town plans to establish a fund and solicit grant monies to purchase the Riverdale business properties as they go on the market.

After the town gains ownership, the comp plan calls for the buildings to be cleared for “environmental restoration and conversion to a land use that is more appropriate for floodplains.”

The short-term plan suggested in the comp plan, according to Propst, “is to clean up and dress up and make the place look nice.”

However, if the Riverdale merchants go to the trouble of cleaning up and making the place look nice, “don’t you think we have a right to stay here?” she asked.

“As long as they have this long-term plan included in the plan showing a divided highway, that shows a lighthouse at the river, that shows no businesses here, that’s always going to be over our heads,” she added.

“I’m playing by the rules they told me we had to play by. I am coming to the meetings, making our positions heard, sitting with the designers to work out what we want the plans for Riverdale to be, not that they’re going to do it,” she continued.

Propst said nothing in the comprehensive plan changed after council voted earlier this year to take out the request for the Corps of Engineers to buy out the Riverdale merchants.

The only difference is that now the comp plan requires the buy-out of Riverdale businesses to be funded by town taxpayers, she maintained.

In her letter to the editor, she stated, “The reality is that if this comprehensive plan is adopted, the town will be putting itself into a position to buy each parcel as it becomes available. No one will be forced out, taxpayer funds will be used to pay each landowner, and a working, income and tax producing piece of property will be turned into a native wetland.

“Rather than invest a dime in streetlights or sidewalk improvements or storm drain improvement, the town will bide its time as, one by one, the landowners decide to sell. As we watch neighboring buildings and parking lots being torn down and removed, as we watch the grass grow and the trees and weeds and bushes, and the accompanying snakes and rats and mosquitoes, move in beside taxpaying businesses, we also will watch the value of our properties go down and down and down.”

Propst said the merchants and landowners in Riverdale want the public to know what is going to happen to them in the future if they are unable to convince the planning commission and the town council to reconsider the long-term plan for Riverdale in the Comprehensive Plan for 2030.

“At the public viewing a few weeks ago, one of the commission members told me that the eradication of Riverdale (my term) is necessary to entice and encourage new business and industry to come to our town and county. This cleanup of the gateway is seen as a great move in that direction,” she said.

“Funny, I thought the two new elementary schools and the revamp of the middle school were supposed to do all that. Now I find that the hopes and dreams of the entire county are riding on a new and improved Riverdale Gateway area…without a building in sight, other than a lighthouse and visitors center and Environmental Education Center that are in the plans to be located near the raw sewage transfer station near the bridge. A walk across the planned covered pedestrian bridge would also end or begin at this smelly site,” she added.

Propst urged the public to take a look at the drawings in the comprehensive plan for Riverdale.

“Look at what will be forfeited for someone’s dream that may never come to fruition. Look at how the town proposes to spend your tax money, money that should have gone to police or street maintenance or library funding or recreation or any number of other projects that will be shorted to fund our demise.

“The plan is for Riverdale to go green, to become a wetlands park,” she reiterated.

“And they tell me this does not indicate that the town is anything but pro-business. Funny, I have trouble seeing it that way.

“And for those who live in the county, be aware that you too will be contributing to this fund with every sales-taxable dollar you spend in the town limits, with every meal you purchase at a town restaurant,” she added in her letter.

Propst said several town representatives had told her South Boston does not have the money to fund plans in the comprehensive plan.

“They said ‘we don’t have the money to do this…we’re never going to be able to do this,” she said. “So I ask, why commit it to paper.”

She said her fears are that once it is put on paper and adopted as a plan, town officials will start applying for grant money.

“Don’t tell me this is going to be 20 years down the road,” Propst added. “We all know that if they decide to do that divided highway first, our buildings won’t be worth anything, nor will we be able to stay in business long enough to see that finished.”

The Riverdale merchants are hoping “to rally the troops” to help them, in their words, “save the Riverdale business district.”

Propst urged others who are concerned to call members of the planning commission, the town council, “and tell them how you feel.”

She also issued a call for support at the upcoming public hearings, the first being held next Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Town Council Chambers on Yancey Street.

“To us, this is do or die time,” Propst concluded.