When the Town of Clayton asked for input, the residents around Cooper Elementary School were ready to talk.
Earlier this month, more than two dozen people filled the fellowship hall of Mt. Vernon Church of Christ for the first in Clayton’s series of neighborhood-improvement meetings. The neighborhood’s concerns centered mostly on the predominance of rental housing and on the need for better trash and litter control.
Clayton has divided the town into 33 neighborhoods and launched a program to hold a meeting in each one. The aim is to identify problems and address as many as time and money allow. The “Cooper neighborhood” was first on a meeting list that should take several years to complete.
Residents in the neighborhood put many of their complaints at the feet of renters. Renters occupy three-quarters of the neighborhood, and homeowners told staff staff that tenants aren’t always taking care of their properties.
Clayton Planning Director David DeYoung, whose department ran the meeting, said it was tricky relying on landlords and property managers to police rental housing. But ultimately, the town has authority to keep yards tidy, he said.
“We can make people clean up their properties; that’s something we can do,” DeYoung said.
Basic cleanliness seemed to be the biggest demand, whether it fell to renters, the town or corporations. One resident complained about a large spool of wire a cable company worker had simply left on the sidewalk for days after making a repair. Another resident asked the town to take better care of its parks before it thought about building new ones.
“There needs to be better maintenance,” Rebecca Berry said. “The town should take care of the stuff it has before building a new dog park.”
Resident Virginia Hinton, a frequent advocate for the north side of Clayton, spoke out for the well-being of children playing in the neighborhood. She wanted some attention paid along Front Street near the train tracks, where rain and neglect have created a ditch.
“I’ve seen children nearly fall in that ditch; it could kill someone,” she said. “That ditch is a safety hazard.”
The Planning Department raised the prospects of a recreation center, additional parkland and possibly tutoring business in the neighborhood. But none of those gained traction with the residents. They noted the lack of any tangible rec center plan and said they were satisfied with tutoring programs offered by churches and libraries.
The town will compile a report on the neighborhood based on its own observations and the comments from residents. DeYoung said he expected to present the report to the Town Council during an April meeting.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdjackson