Housing Committee Meeting Notes – November 13, 2017

Weinland Park Community Civic Association

Housing Committee

Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 // Godman Guild, 303 E. 6th Avenue

Attendees:

Matt Adair, resident and co-chair

Sean Storey, resident and co-chair

Ed Chin, resident

Dan Schafer, resident

Laura Bidwa, resident and co-chair

Greg Davis, Code Enforcement Officer

Susan Colbert, OSU Extension

Jake/Jacob (?), resident

Luke Brooks, resident

Omar Elhagmusa, resident

Chris Micciche, resident

Phil Haley, resident

Michael Nelligan, resident

Oscar Camacho, Campus Partners

Erin Prosser, Campus Partners

later arrivals:

Woody Drake, resident

Evelyn Van Til, resident

Tyler Bender, resident

 

Laura Bidwa, co-chair of the committee, called the meeting to order at 6:05 p.m.

Laura asked about whether we need to have a meeting in December. Matt Adair asks about the timing of the commercial study. Erin Prosser says that can wait until January 2018.

Committee members agreed the Housing Committee will not meet in December, but instead will encourage people to attend the civic association’s annual holiday meeting and potluck dinner on December 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Schoenbaum Family Center, 175 E. Seventh Avenue. The Housing Committee will reconvene regular meetings in January.

Laura distributed “Five Things WP Neighbors Always Ask about Development Projects,” a written document of concerns commonly expressed by members of the Housing Committee when reviewing proposed real estate projects.

Committee members discussed revisions to the document and the rationale for changes.

A resident brought up question of dissemination: Will we put this document on the civic association’s website?

Erin Prosser suggested sharing the document with the University Impact District Review Board and the University Area Commission. Laura Bidwa suggested giving the document to developers or property owners when they contact the committee about issues.

Laura Bidwa moved to approve the document for dissemination. Sean Storey seconded the motion. Ten persons voted in favor of the motion; no one opposed the motion. The motion was adopted.

Laura presented an update from Wagenbrenner Development regarding construction on Grant Avenue and an update on vacant Wagenbrenner properties, such as the four-unit building at Hamlet and East 8th avenues.

Sean Storey expressed disappointment about the property conditions.

Greg Davis reported that the City of Columbus has held off on property code violations for the properties because it understood the big picture of the rehab situation, but the city needs to start citing the properties for violations soon. The city can’t hold off anymore.

Matt asked Erin Prosser to describe the circumstances of the conveyance of the properties from Campus Partners to Wagenbrenner Development. She explained Wagenbrenner was the purchasing agent for Campus Partners in buying a number of vacant properties in Weinland Park. Over time, ownership of most of the properties was conveyed to Campus Partners or other subsequent owners, but Wagenbrenner retained ownership of the four-unit properties from Campus Partners because the company seemed prepared to renovate them. Erin recommended contacting Eric Wagenbrenner about the condition of these properties and to express the frustration of the Housing Committee with the lack of progress on renovations. Laura agreed to write an email message to Wagenbrenner.

The committee discussed a similar lack of progress with some of the vacant lots that the committee and Campus Partners conveyed from Campus Partners to new owners in 2014 with the goal of construction starting within a year. The lots mentioned were the ones going to Lykens Companies and to Terry Fahey. Erin Prosser agreed to review the contracts governing the transfer of these lots and report back to the committee in January about what specific conditions are contained regarding start of construction.

Laura Bidwa reported that Chad Ketler, president of Community Properties of Ohio Management Services, will come to the Housing Committee meeting in January to discuss the potential redevelopment of the carry-out building at N. 4th Street and E. 8th Avenue.

Erin Prosser reported that Campus Partners has engaged Brian Higgins of Arch City Development to estimate the rehab costs on the duplexes owned by Campus Partners and to gather more information about a potential community land trust. Campus Partners and The Columbus Foundation are each paying half the cost for Mr. Higgins’ study. The goal is to have Mr. Higgins come to the Housing Committee meeting in January to explain the renovation costs of the duplexes, as well as the policy framework for creating a community land trust.

Discussion moved to the issue of developers who own property in the neighborhood, but who are not maintaining them or providing for grass cutting or snow removal. Woody Drake encouraged people to call 311 for snow removal issues. Matt advocated that the city policy on snow removal should change and the city should contribute to snow clearance on sidewalks, as it does on roadways; pedestrians should be treated equally with cars.

[After the meeting, Laura contacted the Lykens Companies (owner of the vacant block of lots along N. 4th St. just north of E. 8th Ave. and vacant single lot on Hamlet just south of E. 8th) and Community Properties of Ohio (owner of the vacant carry-out on SW corner of N. 4th and E. 8th) about whom neighbors should contact for these issues:

Discussion concluded with Erin Prosser sharing her phone number if issues develop with properties owned by Campus Partners.

Laura moved to discussion of the committee’s work to support tenants of the rent-to-own houses (primarily along the east side of N. Sixth Street) managed by The NRP Group.

In response to neighbors’ confusion and complaints, committee leadership worked with Wagenbrenner Development, Campus Partners, OSU Extension, and NRP staff over the past few years to develop three letters that clearly explain the restrictions on each property and the details about how the properties will be available for purchase by their tenants. The letters were sent to all NRP tenants in 2017.

Susan Colbert discussed the city’s Weinland Park Neighborhood Plan adopted in 2006 that proposed Weinland Park evolve into a mixed-income neighborhood. OSU Extension became HUD-certified to offer home-buyer education classes to support the goal of the neighborhood plan. OSU Extension has been contracted by The NRP Group to provide supportive services to families in their properties. Because property values have gone up, without incomes increasing, there will be a need for gap financing at year 15 for the NRP families to purchase their homes. Ms. Colbert is very proud of the diversity of the neighborhood and believes that it’s important to maintain that when the time comes. What can the Civic Association do to support the gap financing to allow people to buy the homes when it comes time?

Ms. Colbert also mentioned the importance of addressing increasing taxes on the seniors and fixed-income population. Ms. Colbert said some people in Weinland Park did not apply for an exterior home repair grant because they were afraid that city code enforcement would come inspect the interior of their house. The city doesn’t have grants to help those situations. Ms. Colbert mentioned addressing vacant and abandoned housing and displacement of affordable housing residents.

Laura asked who in the Weinland Park Collaborative would be good to ask about this type of issue?

Erin suggested the civic association keep advocating with city leadership for structural policy changes, not just patches that only work temporarily. Weinland Park has an opportunity to be at the forefront of this conversation.

The committee will revisit these questions in early 2018, probably at the February meeting.

Neighborhood commercial plan

The presentation and discussion of a commercial plan with representatives from the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) started at 7:30 p.m.

The representatives explained their study of retail and commercial development preferences and opportunities in Weinland Park. The representatives had discussed the study and received input at the Housing Committee meetings in September and October. The Housing Committee’s meeting in November was the final opportunity for neighbors to offer feedback on this work.

Summarizing the study’s feedback so far:

  • Mixed-use was the most popular suggestion for the specific commercial sites that committee members reviewed at the October meeting.
  • The smallest scale of development was almost universally considered appropriate for sites with declining approval as the scale increased.
  • The preference was for neighborhood-focused uses (not interested in big-box development).
  • Pdf files will be available with the study’s results.

Among the NDC suggestions and committee responses for various locations in Weinland Park were:

  • NDC presented proposals for 6 specific locations throughout the neighborhood that are likely candidates for commercial development in the near future. These proposals were too detailed to be reflected here and will be shared with committee members as pdf files in December.
  • The former Natalia’s property on Summit Street and East 6th Avenue was not specifically considered, but would make a good coffee shop location because it’s on a one-way street southbound for morning traffic.
  • The PBS building on North Fourth Street at East 7th Avenue is challenged by lack of off-street parking and is dependent on on-street parking.
  • Among the factors in determining a successful retail business location are visibility, traffic counts, access, and perceived convenience, safety and proximity of parking.
  • Interesting to see uses proximate to this area – quirky, re-purposed buildings.
  • Can there be a funky neighborhood use in the ground floor of a brand-new building?
  • As developers see it, there’s no fundamental difference between Italian Village and Weinland Park. If the Italian Village developments look good to us, how can these developments be transitioned or continued up North 4th Street?
  • Research will include lists of space requirements.
  • No new-build sites seem obvious for daycare facilities; adaptive reuse might be a better option.
  • Bars should have sidewalk seating with tables and chairs to get people outside.

The results of the commercial study will be shared in December and discussed with the Housing Committee at its January meeting.

The NDC representatives asked the Housing Committee members to complete additional written feedback:

  • Consider another “Five Things” list for commercial proposals
  • front doors
  • sustainability – water, energy, green roofs
  • Do we want developments built up to the street? What might be the “sweet spot” for how far back a first-floor residential unit should be from the sidewalk.
  • Mark on maps which spaces we want to remain green spaces or community gardens.

 

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