Council Discusses Plaza Zoning, Taxes
By Christopher Selmek, Urbana Daily Citizen, email@example.com
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.
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Roundabout to Receive Upgrades in ’19
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.