This past Tuesday, Montgomery lost one of its great champions. In his honor and memory, we would like to share the following editorial that ran in the Montgomery Advertiser on September 30, 2010. A link to the full piece is available here. About this piece, Sandra Nickel says: “Truer words were never spoken. Amen and thank you, Ken!”
Ken Groves made city better place
SEPTEMBER 30, 2010
Ken Groves made his hometown a better place to live, which would be a fitting epitaph for the city’s planning director who died Tuesday after a brief battle with cancer.
Groves become the city’s chief planner nine years ago, and he helped to change the way many in the city look at planning and zoning issues.
He was an ardent champion of the city’s SmartCode zoning ordinance that allows for mixed-use zoning. The adoption of the code in 2006 allowed the creation of loft apartments and condominiums in downtown Montgomery.
Groves also worked diligently on the West Fairview Avenue redevelopment project — a project that epitomized his approach to development.
Instead of government officials telling the residents how their area should develop, Groves believed in asking them what kind of community they wanted — and then working with them to make it happen.
Even though there was no stronger advocate for smart growth development, he was not an “in your face” proponent. Instead, the soft-spoken planner worked to educate developers, government officials and the public on the advantages of the smart-growth planning and zoning. While not always successful, he made many converts, including many of the community’s elected officials.
One of his more recent projects was helping to plan an urban farm for property near the Montgomery Advertiser offices.
“The beauty of Ken’s work is that it will outlive him and there will be such a strong legacy that, as we go about our day-to-day lives, there will be efforts that Ken led that will be standing reminders of all the good he’s done,” said Deputy Mayor Jeff Downes, who worked closely with Groves.
“All you have to do is walk in downtown Montgomery and have a beautiful oak tree next to you as you walk. It’s a beautiful legacy.”
That’s true. But perhaps his most lasting achievement will not be the visible changes in the cityscape that he helped to create, but the changes in attitudes toward development that he helped to mold among the city’s leaders.