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.