Meeting notes – WPCCA Housing Committee 6:00, Tuesday, December 3, 2019

  • Godman Guild
    • Resident co-chairs Laura Bidwa and Matt Adair;
    • Residents Donna Madlener, Elizabeth Kloss, Michael Nelligan, Neal Bélair, Julie Erickson, Michelle Rubin King;
    • Guests Susan Colbert of OSU Extension and David Hodge, attorney representing The Uncommon.

David Hodge RE: Uncommon (1400 N. High) parking variance request

When the site plan for Uncommon was approved, it was based on non-restaurant commercial space on the first floor and received a zoning variance that allowed them to have less parking than required by code. Now the new property owner wants the option to have a restaurant use, which is required by code to have more parking than retail uses, so they have to request another zoning variance. In the time since building was constructed, code requirements have changed to require generally less parking; current variance request is for permission to have 24 fewer parking spaces than required. Variance request is identical to the one that was initially presented to committee in May 2019, when concerns about trash and church parking were raised. This was David Hodge’s first return visit to the committee since May.

Long discussion about trash. Throughout 2019, dumpsters have been left in the alley almost continually, violating originally approved building plan and obstructing traffic. After many 311 reports and David Hodge intervention with building owner, dumpsters seemed to mostly be compliant for a month or two, but they were back out in the alley again on Dec. 2 and 3. Great concern in neighborhood about this continuing with restaurant trash that would include food waste. Also a concern that eventually building owners would decide they needed more space inside the building to handle trash, which would be taken out of parking areas and further reduce available parking.

Hodge: The law requires the trash to be taken care of in a certain way. If the management continues to not strictly comply with the law, they could eventually end up in environmental court.

Laura Bidwa and Elizabeth Kloss: Neighborhood is currently experiencing other code violations by landlords of this kind that have been in process with city for years and are still unresolved, so unfortunately, it’s unrealistic to rely on city process to gain compliance. Hodge agreed to ask clients for specific policy to be included in leases regarding trash handling, and to share that policy with the neighborhood.

Bidwa: I spoke to Pastor Robey today at 7th Avenue Community Missionary Baptist next door to Uncommon, and he said the Uncommon company has indicated more than once that they are not willing to allow the church to use any of the Uncommon parking on Sundays. The building’s residents and lack of loading dock also have a negative impact on the parking that the church does own behind and alongside the church. And Uncommon tenants have done enough illegal parking at the Kroger lot across 7th Ave that Kroger will no longer allow church to park there on Sundays. It would be a powerful gesture by Uncommon owners to commit some parking garage space to the church on Sunday mornings. Hodge: I have a good relationship with Deacon Pointer at the church and have asked my clients about this more than once. I will ask again.

Discussion about whether it would be preferable for restaurant uses in Uncommon to:

  • Be reduced in total spare footage from current variance request for 7,922 sq. ft.
  • Include only 1 liquor license, or no liquor license (consensus seemed to be that 1 would be ok)
  • Not allow outdoor amplification
  • Not allow outdoor queuing that obstructs sidewalk

Hodge: I will ask client.

Neal Bélair and Donna Madlener: fix the landscaping and mud and trees and greenspace around the street. Hodge: I will ask.

Matt Adair: I think it’s crazy that the city requires developers to build storage space for people who choose to buy personal automobiles and don’t have anywhere to put them. I’m embarrassed that you even have to be here going through all this.

Hodge: This is not a threat, but a much less desirable use could come to this space than a restaurant. The C4 zoning would allow almost anything.

Madlener: We’re a community here, and we’d like your client to participate in our community. The trash, the landscaping, children’s safety…if we give you something, we’d like something back from you.

David: I agree, that’s why I’m here. I’d like to invite my clients to come meet you all in person.

Kloss: Maybe they’d want to do a walking tour through the neighborhood…include the library in the conversation.

Michelle Rubin King: They’ve made a lot of promises for kids, and there’s nothing for them to do but get in trouble because they’re curious. They’ve been promising playgrounds and all that, we haven’t got them. I mean, there’s no activity, there’s nothing here for the kids. They’re bringing all new stuff in, but there’s nothing to include the children.

Susan Colbert: Would you consider a Good Neighbor Agreement?

Hodge: I’ll ask. Colbert: Would the restaurants be hiring local residents?

Madlener: Maybe the company could donate a swingset to the park?

Hodge requested a vote, although Bidwa and Kloss were reluctant because there had been no time to pursue any of the discussed conditions – so there was nothing concretely different than basic variance request to vote on. Hodge proposed a conditional vote, Bidwa said no because diversity and number of conditions would make the vote meaningless after client had responded in different ways/degrees to all the different conditions. Bidwa moved to approve the variance request. Bélair seconded. Motion failed, 1 in favor, 5 opposed, 1 abstained.