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.
“The zoning right now is for manufacturing,” Bailey said. “But we’re looking at whether it would make better sense on the east side to make it more of a mixed use environment because there would be space for retail, offices and manufacturing combined if that was the need.”
Once complete, Bailey said the complicated project will remove a property that was a nuisance to the city and local first responders. Once redeveloped, the goal is to use the property to attract more jobs and investment to the city. The abandoned Q3 site at Miami and Beech streets has been an eyesore in Urbana for years, creating concerns about safety, vandalism and drug use on the property. In 2015, a fire destroyed much of the building.
City officials took control of the property under the conditions that overdue taxes were cleared off the books and funding was secured to perform necessary demolition and clean up contamination at the site. The process to acquire the site and secure the necessary funding was a lengthy process, but once the work was underway, the project moved forward fairly quickly, said Kerry Brugger, director of administration for Urbana.
“The bulk of the demolition, the buildings that are going to come down, for the most part are down,” Brugger said. “They’re working on slab removal, and they’ll finish up and (do) soil remediation that needs to be completed.”
There is work left to do on the existing buildings on the site that will remain there. The city contracted with True Inspection Services, an Urbana-based developer, to clean up and redevelop the site. Other partners included Honeywell, with whom the city contracted to clean soil on the rear west side of the site.
Once the work is complete, the city will seek a Covenant Not to Sue from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. That designation will show the site is cleaned up and in good condition, a key to allowing the city to eventually transfer the property.
True Inspection Services will initially take over part of the property once the work is complete and work with the CEP to find candidates to occupy the site. The company is also renovating the remaining buildings for office space or warehouse space by next year.
“We anticipate the cleanup and remediation part of the project should be done in the next eight weeks,” said Joe Timm, vice president for True Inspection Services.
There are prospective tenants for the property, Timm said, but he declined to disclose them because the project is still months from completion. He said the company had previous experience renovating the former Buckles Motors dealership and converting it to office space and warehousing. Finishing the Q3 project will provide several benefits to the city, he said.
“It will add some jobs to the community and increase the tax base,” Timm said. “It will definitely be good for the community, along with getting rid of an eyesore.”
by Christopher Selmek, Urbana Daily Citizen
The Urbana City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the residential rental development proposed by Flaherty and Collins Properties to redevelop South Elementary School, North Elementary School and the Douglas Inn for senior apartments at a regular council meeting on Tuesday. A copy of this resolution will accompany Flaherty and Collins' tax credit application to the Ohio Housing Finance Authority by the Feb. 15 deadline.
"I think this is a fantastic opportunity, and I think Urbana would be very welcoming to this," said council member Doug Hoffman. "We've got three distinct structures that I think really need this for the revitalization of the properties. These properties don't get fixed up any other way, at least not in the near future, and it also helps some of the other entities in town like the school and the downtown. I think this is just fantastic."
"I'm really excited about this," added council member Pat Thackery. "We have a housing issue in the community anyway, and if we get some senior housing, that's going to open up some housing that seniors are moving out of so others can move in there, and that's going to help the housing overall. I'm excited. And we need exciting things like this to happen in town and they're happening."
As part of the proposed development, the council unanimously passed another resolution authorizing the acquisition of certain properties, an agency agreement with the Community Improvement Corporation of Champaign County to negotiate with a buyer to purchase and develop said properties, declaring said properties to be no longer needed for public purposes and to authorize the sale of said propertes.
CIC Economic Director Marcia Bailey explained that the Urbana school board passed a resolution last week approving the sale of North and South elementaries to the city for a dollar a building. The school board set the purchase price of both buildings at $354,000, to which Flaherty and Collins has agreed.
"I see a trend where all the good things that seem to keep happening are coming through collaboration, through another party and party deals," Hoffman said. "Everything's happening with two and three and four, even five people involved, and I think that's not anything that we've had for a long time that I can remember. The group that we have up here now is working some pretty nice deals for the city, and I think our citizens recognize that."
The Douglas Inn is privately owned and further action will not be required fromt he council to authorize its sale.
Concerns future Memorial Health site on east side of Urbana