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The Grantville Action Group held a press conference this morning to announce their formation as a collection of property and business owners in the area who oppose the city’s redevelopment designation in the area.

Coinciding with the President’s Day holiday, the press conference included statements from residents and business owners, including GAG president Brian Peterson, a veterinarian with a pet hospital on Friars Road. Peterson invoked his understanding of the American ideals associated with the rights of property owners:

Theodore Roosevelt said of himself that he was a “conservationist,” not a “preservationist.” This is how I feel about Grantville. We recognize that change is inevitable and is good for a community. Change, however, should follow a free-market approach, and preserve the civil liberties of the members of the community. T.R. also said, “In every civilized society property rights must be carefully safeguarded.” The Grantville Action Group Declaration provides a framework for a “civilized” approach to guide change in Grantville.

But at the press conference, public relations consultant Bob Castaneda voiced his opposition to the group, calling them obstructionists who don’t represent all of the residents in the area.

Castaneda is a native San Diegan who lives in a housing development near Grantville. In recent weeks, he said he’s placed telephone calls to several community leaders in the area who he says agree with him that redevelopment is what the area needs.

“This area has not changed in 30 or 40 years, and any incremental change has been for the worse,” Castaneda said in an interview this afternoon. “I have nothing against these people, but to say that they unilaterally represent this community is wrong.”

Castaneda recently circulated a letter among some residents in the Navajo communities — which include Del Cerro, San Carlos, Allied Gardens and Grantville — under the name “Community Leaders for a Better Grantville.” He opened the letter with this statement:

Our community’s longstanding desire for beautification, traffic improvement and revitalization of the Grantville area is being threatened by a small number of property owners who are putting their own interests above the interests of our entire community.

Castaneda said he was not hired by anyone to attend the conference. In the past, he has been involved in various development projects — both for and against — around the county as a consultant.

John Pilch, a community activist who sat on the Grantville Redevelopment Advisory Committee, said he thinks it’s too early in the redevelopment process to say definitively what would be best for the Grantville neighborhood.

“This is still a discussion; nothing’s set in stone yet,” he said this afternoon. “Before anybody jumps to any conclusions — on either side — we need a great deal more information.”

Pilch, who heads the Del Cerro community planners, says he voted in favor of the city designating the neighborhood a redevelopment zone in order to see what kind of plans would be proposed.

The group that organized the press conference goes by GAG and claims, “That’s what happens when redevelopment is shoved down our throats.” They have telephone numbers for more than 100 area residents and business owners who they say are in support of their efforts to stop the city’s redevelopment plans.

The city’s plans have been sidelined until it resolves a lawsuit filed by the county alleging that the redevelopment designation was a tactic used to garner tax dollars that would otherwise go to the county. The suit alleges that Grantville does not contain adequate instances of “blight” to justify the redevelopment designation. The city and county legal teams are working on a settlement.

More about this issue is detailed in this story.

KELLY BENNETT

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