Neighbors of a proposed ex-felon housing and rehabilitation property sponsored by New Hope Baptist Church have withdrawn from negotiating a Good Neighbor Agreement with the church, after rallying for such an agreement for months.

Central District News has a great update on the months-long standoff (which I wrote about here).

Meanwhile, the church is still paying rent on a vacant house.

Things fell apart after the last public meeting a month ago, during which neighbors found out that the Good Neighbor Agreement they were rallying for wouldn't be enforced by the city, but would be, in essence, a gentleman's agreement between the church and the neighborhood. (Although at the meeting, several people were quick to argue that if a GNA was broken, they could still take the church to civil court.)

From CD News:

A blockwatch member tells CDNews that the draft agreement presented in the meeting was too one-sided and was drawn up only in consultation with Black Dollar Days Task Force, which is the primary group backing the felon housing project. The following day the blockwatch sent a letter to Reverend Jeffrey and city officials, announcing their withdrawal from the negotiations.

Reverend Jeffrey says the letter went further, calling it "very hostile and unfair", and said that it impugned the motives of Director Hayes as being too closely aligned with the project's backers. Jeffrey says that he and Hayes have often been on opposing sides in various issues in the community, and that he saw Hayes as a fair, impartial arbitrator. He added that the tone of the blockwatch letter has caused Hayes to back away from the process, leaving it without a mediator.

I attended that last meeting. Aside from SPD Director John Hayes, there was a city attorney and three police officers present, all of whom fielded questions and listened to residents throughout the night. One of the main questions asked by residents was how they could enforce a GNA if the city refused to. My take is, since the city has decided to remain neutral on this issue (as they should), the blockwatch withdrew from negotiations. They don't want mediation; they want to get their way.

I'll be in touch with the church later today to see how this affects their plans and post a follow-up.