Community garden proposed to deter crime

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By Amanda Ensinger
Staff Writer

Residents are fighting back against violence and drug activity that has plagued their community and are asking local leaders for support.

At a recent Franklin Township board meeting, a resident addressed the board to share her concerns about an apartment complex and offer a unique solution that could bring the residents closer.

Havenwood Townhomes, a rental community in the township that consists of 96 buildings and 826 units, continues to have an issue with a variety of criminal activity. This activity ranges from shootings, to open drug use to gang activity.

“The opioid crisis is rampant in our community,” said Janine Lovelace, a resident of Havenwood Townhomes. “We have people laying in the park on drugs. We have people chasing people with guns and we have shootings. We have serious issues going on and there are lots of children that live in this community.”

Crime has been an ongoing issue with the townhomes since before it was purchased by the Romney Group in 2014. Previously, the townhomes were called the Metro West Apartments. About five years ago, the townhomes were transformed into luxury apartments that are between 1,300 and 1,600 square feet and a park was built for residents to enjoy.

Despite these upgrades, criminal activity continues to be an issue. At one point, Franklin Township officials even considered putting a police substation in the complex.

“We did consider having a substation here, but determined that criminal activity would still continue, it just would be around the corner from the substation,” trustee John Fleshman said. “To fix this issue, we need education and love, not more handcuffs.”

With this in mind, Lovelace asked the board if the township could build an international community garden in the Havenwood Townhomes Park. The park was built by Havenwood and given to the township.

“This would be a great opportunity to get kids off the street and teach them a skill that will last a lifetime,” Lovelace said. “It would teach them about community pride, food sustainability and give them an opportunity to work with other people on a common goal.”

Lovelace said it also would be a fantastic opportunity to teach children about food from other cultures.

“We have people from all backgrounds and cultures in our community,” Lovelace said. “While everyone may not speak the same language, food is a common language we all speak. This would be an amazing opportunity to learn about different items grown around the world and give the kids insight on food other cultures eat.”

The hope would be that after the kids grow vegetables in the garden, they would then have some type of afterschool cooking class where they could prepare the items they grow together and enjoy a meal together or invite residents from the community to have dinner with them.

Lovelace suggested residents pay only $10 for their plot of land and then are responsible for buying their own seeds or plants to grow in the garden.

“This is about more than food; it is about getting these kids to care about their community,” Lovelace said. “No matter what improvements they make to the westside, if we can’t get them to care, none of it will matter because the drugs and violence will still continue.”

The township trustees said they loved this idea and agreed an international community garden would be a great way to bring the community together.

“Ever since Havenwood has sprung up, we have had drug issues and violence there and we can’t get enough officers out there to completely eradicate the ongoing issues,” Fleshman said. “I agree that we need people to take pride in where they call home and building something with your own hands is a big way to show pride in your community.”

The trustees agreed to approve a motion to move forward with the community garden.

However, a resolution cannot be passed until the township knows if there are restrictions to build a garden on the property.

“Once we confirm we have the right zoning to do this, we can approve this, but we need to check first,” Fleshman said.

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