By Christopher Selmek, Urbana Daily Citizen, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Urbana City Council held a public hearing on Tuesday concerning a zoning map update revoking the Scioto Street Plaza Planned Unit Development zoning and rezoning two parcels from PUD to B-2 General Business District. No members of the public spoke at the hearing and council members had no questions. Council heard the second reading of this ordinance during the regular meeting, which followed the hearing.
According to Zoning Officer Adam Moore, there has been no development within the PUD containing Taco Bell, Goodwill and Tim Hortons for five years, and a person interested in the property says B-2 zoning would be most appropriate for his intentions. Rezoning would not negatively affect any of the businesses currently in that area, Moore said.
Michael Lentz of the Manick Smith Group, Columbus, attended the meeting. Council President Marty Hess asked about the possibility of improving safety at the parking lot exits and Lentz said that it is being considered.
Council member Pat Thackery said he believes the rezoning will encourage development. Following the passage of the rezoning ordinance, there will be an additional process of subdividing the B-2 zone into four sections.
Council heard the second reading of five ordinances approving collective bargaining agreements between the city and various entities, including the Urbana Firefighters Association, the Urbana service divisions public employees of Ohio teamsters, and the Fraternal Order of Police / Ohio Labor Council, Inc. Administrator Kerry Brugger said this was the first time that all five agreements happened simultaneously, as they are usually discussed throughout the year.
All five agreements eliminated “fair share” language in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision that ended compelled union dues for public employees.
The city agreed to a 2.25 percent or 2.5 percent base wage increase for firefighters and police officers during each contract year, depending on their union affiliation and length of service.
Council heard the first reading of an ordinance adding an additional six-tenths of one percent tax on income to the current additional four-tenths rate, establishing a new additional tax rate at one percent. The proposed ordinance states that vital public safety services no longer can be adequately funded by the four-tenths rate due to reductions made at the state level of government.
Urbana voters rejected similar ballot measures during the November and May elections. If this ordinance is passed after three readings, council will next pass a resolution putting the issue on the ballot in spring of 2019. If passed, the tax will take effect on July 1st, 2019.
“We’ve met several times since the last defeat of this particular ordinance and feel that it’s probably still the best way for us to go to try to get a balance to the budget, and to get security for the funds for the EMS, police and fire departments, so we decided to put that back on the ballot,” said Thackery. “I think we gained a lot the second time, I think the third time there will be even better communications and a little bit more understanding. We’ve continued to look at other ways of funding that and there are none that we could find, so we’re back out and saying lets do it again.”
“It’s been voted down twice and I don’t think people are going to pass it,” said council member Ray Piper. “You know we need the money, but they don’t want to take that money out of their paycheck.”
“I think we ought to try it one more time, but at a certain point we’re beating a dead horse,” said council member Eugene Fields. “The voters have voted it down twice. I’m not saying more education won’t help, and maybe trying to pull some of these people who were so opposed to it… maybe we need to try to reach out to them and try it one more time.”
Fields asked how much it was costing to sponsor this ordinance and was informed that it cost nothing to put the issue on the ballot, since it was not a special election, and that the funds for the campaign came from the committee set up for that purpose instead of from public funds. When City Law Director Mark Feinstein asked if there was council sponsorship of this ordinance, council member Dwight Paul said that he was involved with the campaign and willing to have his name associated with the ballot issue.
The next council meeting will take place on Jan. 8 due to the New Year’s holiday.
Montego Designs Unlimited is OPEN for business at 114 Scioto in Urbana. Welcome to Champaign County!
According to city Engineer Tyler Bumbalough, an initial study was performed shortly after the roundabout was installed in September 2009. The study noted that the right-hand turn bypass lanes were misaligned. Some local officials also wanted the roundabout to be higher functioning for pedestrian walk-ability, safety and slowing traffic speeds within the roundabout.
“We had known that this was a temporary type roundabout when we initially put it in in 2009,” said Bumbalough. “We took down the traffic signals and installed paint within the square, but that’s not what a modern roundabout is. A modern roundabout includes features such as islands and better crosswalk designations to help deter traffic, slow it down, and traffic calming techniques that really help geometrically slow the traveling public down.”
Bumbalough said the city plans to bid the project in January or February 2019, with a contractor starting work in March or April. The contractor must have everything within the pavement limits complete by Aug. 31, after which ODOT will execute an existing contract to pave the square and one block in each direction from the square: Court, Market, Walnut and Locust streets.
“There’s going to be five maintenance and traffic phases,” Bumbalough said. “The first phase will address the improvements in the center of the square. The next four phases will have leg closures, so the south leg might be closed at one time with some of the parking area on one side or the other, then they’ll move on to the next leg and do one side of the parking or the other. Those blocks will be closed, except to pedestrians, and they’re going to try to maintain traffic to the parking lots and alleys with just a narrow strip to get to those.
“We’re not closing down downtown in the sense that we’re closing businesses,” he added. “We’re keeping businesses open. They’ll have pedestrian access to them, though they won’t have parking necessarily when that leg is closed. The contractor must maintain access to the storefronts. If the concrete has to be replaced in front of the entry then the contractor will work with the store owner for any alternatives.”
In advance of construction there will be notice of closure signs posted two weeks prior to construction. Both truck detours and internal detours within the city will be posted during construction. At the request of the city’s fire and police divisions, emergency personnel will still be able to get through the closed legs, Bumbalough said.
Bumbalough said the Monument Square roundabout takes over 25,000 vehicles a day, which is why the city is phasing the project to create the least disturbance.
“Roundabouts decrease the severity of accidents, and they also cut down on the number of conflict points,” he said. “I think there’s only eight conflict points in a single lane roundabout. In (a nonroundabout) intersection I think there’s over 20 conflict points where you could have a series of different kinds of accidents. There’s no real opportunity for T-bone crashes as much as there are for just sideswipes or rear-ends in a roundabout, so we wanted to decrease severity of accidents.”
Accident numbers within the roundabout have steadily decreased since its installation as people have gotten used to it, Bumbalough said, adding the coming upgrades are intended to decrease accidents even further.
The CEP continually updates content displayed on the 11 monitors – one at each of the five Champaign County high schools; one each at Urbana University, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center and in the CEP’s office window in the center of Urbana’s downtown business district; and one each in the windows of three downtown businesses in Mechanicsburg, North Lewisburg and St. Paris.
The project is being supported by Urbana University, Ohio Hi-Point, Dayton Power & Light, FASTLANE, Darby Dental Smiles, Urbana Dental Smiles, Berry Digital Solutions and Weidmann Electrical Technology, Inc.
CEP Director Marcia Bailey said the monitors help inform students, county residents and visitors about local economic and community development growth, job opportunities, and education and workforce training. The monitors, she added, complement CEP’s partnership with local schools and manufacturers to prepare students for local career opportunities. Job openings advertised on the monitors come from the CEP’s local job posting website, Community Job Connect.
“I’m a strong believer in the education-workforce ecosystem. And the CEP is leading the way to organizing education and employers, preparing talent to meet the needs of our employers,” Christopher Washington, Executive Vice President and CEO of Urbana University, a branch campus of Franklin University, said.
The monitors are the ideal way to deliver the information, he adds. “Kids today are digitally wired and pay attention to what’s on the screen.”
Kelsey Webb, Ohio Hi-Point Director of Communications and Marketing, said, “We’re participating because this is completely in our wheelhouse to prepare students for career or college. We’re excited to help spread the message that there are great opportunities here for students.”
By Christopher Selmek, Urbana Daily Citizen
The Urbana City Council voted to rezone the southern portion of a parcel located at 1040 S. Main St. from R-3 High Density Residential to B-2 General Business District at the regular meeting on Tuesday. All council members voted to approve the rezoning following its third reading except for council member Eugene Fields, who abstained because, he said, a member of his family had married into the group of investors. Council members Dwight Paul and Doug Hoffman were absent.
Zoning map and code changes become effective 30 days after council passage. This rezoning is intended to allow for the construction of a 54-room hotel with a swimming pool on three acres of an 11-acre plot near the corner of State Route 55 and South US 68 along South High Street.
"I want to thank coucil for passing the rezoning down at the south end," said Mayor Bill Bean. "When I became mayor, both (Champaign Economic Partnership Executive Director) Marcia (Bailey) and I realized that we were losing a lot of revenue and people were going elsewhere. At least 7,500 room nights a year we were losing. By having the hotel there, it's going to really cement people staying here, and that's good for Urbana, it's good for taxes, and it's something that we needed desperately."
According to Community Development Manager Doug Crabill, the next step in the process will be a site plan review process through the city's Technical Review Committee and the Planning Commission.
Investment group chair Mike Major said the group has been working with Cobblestone Hotels and that investors in communities smaller than Urbana have been pleased with the hotels and in some instances were building more.
"The investment group is made up of community members and people who have invested heavily in the community in many different aspects," he said. "We have the field of medicine represented, we have agriculture, downtown business ownership, real estate ownership, people who really care about seeing this community grow and putting some of the pieces of the puzzle together. We feel this is necessary because there is so much slippage of hotel nights going to Springfield, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars not only from hotel fees, but if people stay in town, they're going to be eating in the restaurants, they're going to be shopping. The university doesn't have enough facilities for the sports teams that are coming in. There are so many different layers of businesses and entities who really need hotel space in town."
He added that there will be a partnership between the investors and Urbana University which will create a program training people in the hotel business.
According to Major, research has indicated a need for more than 70 rooms, but investors were being conservative by putting in 54 rooms to make sure the project was a success. The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce website cites a 2013 study by Tourism Economics that shows that total tourism impact in Champaign County resulted in over $47 million in sales and enables the employment of over 350 people in the county.
Major said the developers would keep a curtain of trees behind the hotel so there is a margin between the hotel and the zoned residential property directly behind it. Bailey added that the parking lot would be in front of the building, possibly wrapping around the sides, and that there would be room for future development.
Hotels are a principal use of the B-2 zoning code, meaning that only the site plan review and the zoning permit processes are required. Other principal uses of this land may include commercial recreation, retail businesses, personal services, offices, eating and drinking establishments, or automotive filling stations. There is an extensive list of conditionally permitted uses that require the additional step of getting approval from the city's board of zoning appeals.
"I was asked by (Urbana Zoning Officer) Adam (Moore) maybe six to eight months ago if we had enough B-2 area in the city limits to be able to encourage retail growth or business growth. We really don't," Bailey said at a public hearing for the rezoning on Oct. 16. "The land that is vacant for new builds in B-2 is very hard-pressed to find. By allowing this rezoning, not only to have this hotel project and the potential of that but just having some b-2 area for potential businesses, is really important."
“They are the heart of the museum,” said Executive Director Dave Shiffer. “It is only with the hard work and dedication of our volunteers that we stand here today.” There are those who travel from Indiana, Florida, Missouri and California just to spend a few hours working on this project.
The words from the late William E. Boeing can certainly resonate with the volunteers of the Champaign Aviation Museum. They simply refuse to believe that “it can’t be done.” The project has been ongoing since late 2005.
The Flying Fortress project is comprised of five B-17 aircraft built during the 1940s. Only a portion of each of these aircraft will be used on the finished model due to stress, cracks and corrosion damage. The majority of the aircraft will be comprised of all new material. It could be said that this B-17 Flying Fortress will be the newest model around.
Visitors to the museum have prime access to the museum’s attractions. There are no ropes between tourists and the homemade displays, exhibits or the aircraft that is being fabricated in the hangar. Visitors are permitted to tour the fabrication area and the volunteers welcome their questions. Many World War II-era aircraft are static and others have been known to stretch their wings on a sunny day.
The Champaign Aviation Museum does not charge for admission but gladly accepts donations. The visitors come from many locations around the world including England, Holland, Canada and Mexico.
The Champaign Aviation Museum is non-profit 501(c)3 continuing to raise funds through generous donations.
For more information about donating to the museum, please direct emails to www.ChampaignAviationMuseum.org.
And Ohio’s economy is growing quickly, adding jobs faster than the rest of the nation, said Bret Crow, spokesperson for Ohio Job and Family Services. Average weekly earnings are also growing faster than other states across the country.
“This milestone is a big deal for Ohio, but even further, it’s a positive indicator that Ohio’s economy is continuing its strong trajectory upward,” Crow said.
Experts say the data underline the continued recovery after the Great Recession. Even as the economy improved, consumers worried about spending their savings.
“Finally consumer confidence has increased and they feel more confident spending money on new cars, housing and other consumer products,” said John Bowblis, an economics professor at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business. “And this has made business confidence increase as well, leading them to invest in their businesses and to hire workers to meet the demands of consumers.”
The manufacturing sector added 3,400 jobs last month. Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Harrison Twp., for example, has increased from 23 employees to 40 in the past year and a half, said owner Steve Staub.
“It started moving up a year and a half ago, but once the tax cuts went into effect, it really gave optimism to manufacturers,” he said, adding that the tax cuts are like “jet fuel” for manufacturers.
More than one in 10 Ohioans work a manufacturing job, totaling more than 700,000, according to the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association. The sector boasts an Ohio GDP of $106 billion, ranking third of the 50 states. It’s also the largest of 20 economic sectors in the state.
The “other services” sector, which includes repair shops, hair and nail salons, and weight-reduction services, added 3,400 jobs in September as well, a sector that Crow said does better when people have more disposable income to spend.
“I think what we need to be careful of is what happens to the Federal Reserve policy with interest rates. When you raise interest rates, it makes borrowing more expensive,” Bowblis said. “If the fed over-tightens that could lead to a slowdown in growth and potentially recession. It’s a delicate balancing act.”
As more people lose the option to borrow, their consumer confidence could drop, adding on to the growing concern consumers have as the trade war with China escalates.
And labor force participation has dropped, said Miami University economics professor Michael Lipsitz. Participation takes into account all Ohioans older than 16 who are working or want to work. Before the recession, it was about 67 percent, but now it is closer to 62 percent.
“Another month of falling labor force participation means Ohioans are leaving the labor market — either to move to another state or they are unable to find a job that fits their skills,” said Andrew Kidd an economist with The Buckeye Institute’s Economic Research Center.