IDEA Committee suggests New Albany change name of Planters Grove subdivision

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group
After a recent controversy over the name of the Planters Grove subdivision, New Albany's Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Action Committee has recommended changing the name of the neighborhood. Facilitators Courtnee Carrigan and Lisa White presented a slideshow with recommendations from the committee at the June 1 New Albany City Council meeting.

A recent controversy generated from the name of a New Albany subdivision and some of its street names has been addressed publicly, with a few people making recommendations on the matter.

One of the suggestions would be to change the name of Planters Grove because it and some of its street names were taken from southern plantations along the James River in Virginia and in North Carolina.

Another related recommendation would be to create a historical marker for Planters Grove to explain the origination of the subdivision name and the community awareness that caused it to be changed.

The issue started in January, when city officials were notified that street names in the Planters Grove subdivision were associated with plantations.

The following day, City Manager Joseph Stefanov directed staff members to begin the process of reviewing street names throughout New Albany to see how many might have such an association.

After months of research, it was found that dozens of the city's roughly 258 street names could have been associated with plantations, but they also were names of New Albany’s founding families, said Scott McAfee, spokesman for the city.

Seventeen members of the Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Action Committee who are not employees of the city made recommendations on Planters Grove and other issues.

Facilitators Courtnee Carrigan and Lisa White presented a slideshow with recommendations from the committee at the June 1 New Albany City Council meeting.

“I’m 100% on board of changing the name of that neighborhood,” said Mayor Sloan Spalding, also a member of council and the IDEA Committee.

The name should reflect that of a Black person or other person of color who made significant contributions to central Ohio, he said.

Spalding said he also is in favor of a historical marker being placed at the entrances of the subdivision to serve as a reminder of the past.

As for changing individual street names, that would cause more logistical issues for the members of the 300 or so households, who would have to change car titles, utility-bill addresses, mortgage titles, passports, insurance and other significant household documentation, Spalding said.

He said the Planters Grove name was brought to the attention of the city by a couple who bought a house in the neighborhood. After researching it, they concluded it stemmed from a plantation name.

Spalding said at the time, about 30 years ago, city leaders likely weren’t aware of the significance of its origins. He added that all the street names are on the National Register of Historic Places, so although it might not be comfortable for some people, running from history would not help matters.

“Today, we would not make that decision,” he said. “Now what do we do about it?”

Marlene Brisk, a member of council and the IDEA Committee, said the group was meeting long before the Planters Grove incident.

Part of the reason for forming the committee was that some people didn’t feel included in community activities and decision-making, Brisk said.

Planters Grove gave the committee an opportunity to share its thoughts and recommendations on an important community issue, she said.

“We feel like we make efforts but we want to learn where there’s room for improvement,” Brisk said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary