What to do about the city’s ignored alleys

There’s differing opinions about them

Is the alley behind your house a wasted piece of land that no one uses? Maybe it’s growing up in weeds or filled with potholes and needs immediate maintenance.

Well there’s a chance the City of Jacksonville would deed the portion of the alley behind your home to you – with a few catches, of course, according to District 4 Councilman Jim Love.

“Every alley has its own access and uses and each has to be looked at individually,” Love said. “The problem is some people want to change the usage and that may conflict with their neighbors.”

Alley 2Here is one universal truth about Jacksonville alleys – the city is no longer maintaining them. “They don’t have the money for it,” Love said.
That means residences or businesses still needing their alleys – including Love’s insurance office on King Street that has a rear parking lot accessible only by an alley – must pay for maintenance themselves.

The way John Hurtubise sees it, alleys in Jacksonville’s historic neighborhoods are being ignored by the city to the detriment of the residents there. The result is a hodgepodge of alley access situations ranging from fully maintained to completely impassable due to overgrown vegetation or heaps of trash.
“It’s a vital part of what makes this a historic neighborhood,” said Hurtubise, who has lived in the historic district since 1993 and previously served on the Riverside Avondale Preservation board for 20 years. “We need to keep them maintained and we’re not doing that.”
Hurtubise said he became personally involved in the poor alley conditions when he couldn’t get the city to repair one next to a rental property on Herschel Street.
“It needed to be clipped and mowed and opened and I couldn’t get anything done about it. It’s just a rutted mess,” he said.
The city’s new green and yellow recycling containers sitting out front of historic homes in Riverside and Avondale are further evidence the alleys are desperately needed.

“Those recycling and trash bins are a horrible blight in our neighborhood,” he said. “We should put trash bins back in the alleys where they were intended to be and then we would have a much more aesthetic-looking historic neighborhood.”

Hurtubise says the city will never find a solution doing what’s always done and now “needs to think outside the box.” Tampa, for instance, assesses residents of its historic neighborhoods a fee for alley maintenance; when they don’t pay it they get one warning and after that they are fined.

Alley 1In addition to working with Councilman Love, Hurtubise is urging the city to create a committee to search for some solutions and make recommendations on alleys.

“Maybe if we raise some public awareness about this and get some more public involvement we can come up with a solution,” he said. “We need to look at it in other creative ways, maybe a special (tax) assessment…whatever it is we need to get out of the box we’re in.”
RAP Executive Director Carmen Godwin agrees with Hurtubise about the importance of alleys in the historic district and the “unsightly” garbage containers along the roadway.

It’s unfortunate, she said, that the city eliminated its small trash trucks used for alley pick up about five years ago. “Now there’s no reason for the city to maintain the alleys because they got rid of the trucks,” she said.

Godwin noted that residents in Springfield, another historic area, have volunteers who maintain alleys. About a year ago RAP officially adopted a stance that alleys are of historic value in the Riverside/Avondale area as well.

“We feel very strongly that if the city would pay to do the cleanup of the alleys that we could find…a good group of people for upkeep every six months or so.”

Do you have an alley dilemma, issue with an overgrown alley? If you have any thoughts to share on alley maintenance, or perhaps a proposal for city leaders, please email [email protected] or call (904) 388-8839, dial x-101 and leave a message.

By Greg Walsh
Resident Community News

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