Bowling Green City Council Monday night narrowly approved three rezoning ordinances that would allow retail and residential redevelopment of property on the north side of the 200 block of East Wooster Street.
All three ordinances passed on 4-3 votes, with Mike Aspacher, Bruce Jeffers, Robert McOmber and Greg Robinette voting yes. Daniel Gordon, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino all voted no.
Council rezoned eight properties in the 100 block of North Summit, 200 block of East Wooster and 100 block of North Prospect to the recently-created B-5, transitional central business district classification. The original request had been to rezone from B-2, general commercial, to B-3, central business district.
Council also approved five screening and buffering requirements and one lighting requirement recommended by the municipal administrator and city planning director as allowed under the B-5 designation.
Two neighboring property owners requested additional screening and buffering but council declined the requests.
The plan was controversial from the start. Two weeks after the initial public hearing, council proposed the B-5 classification. The ensuing weeks brought additional hearings and discussions that refined the classification. Council approved creation of the B-5 classification two weeks ago.
Developer Steve Green said after the meeting that he expects demolition and construction to begin in August for the project. He hopes the new building will be enclosed by winter and can be ready for occupancy in the spring of 2014. “That would be a perfect scenario,” Green said.
Green said everyone had worked toward the decision and concessions had been made on the project. “I truly feel this is a good fit for the property,” he said.
The project will require demolition of three houses on East Wooster Street and one house on North Prospect Street. The house on the northwest corner of Wooster and Summit streets will remain.
An illustration and drawings shared at previous meetings indicate the Greens plan to build a two-story structure fronting on Wooster Street. The first floor would contain up to eight retail spaces. The second floor would contain approximately 16 efficiency or one-bedroom apartments. Access to the second floor would be via stairway and elevator in the middle of the structure. Parking would be both in front and behind the building. Traffic could enter from both Wooster and Prospect streets.
Gordon, who represents the First Ward where the project is located, said his constituents have been “nearly 100 percent opposed to the strip mall. When that many people state the same thing, we must carefully listen to them.”
Gordon said residents are not afraid of change but want change “consistent with the residential character and integrity of the neighborhood. That reasonable request guides my vote.”
He also called for a “larger citywide conversation” about the east side of the city, ranging from relations between students and residents and strengthening the housing stock to preserving neighborhoods.
“We need to focus not just on economic development, but community development, in order to enhance the quality of life for all people who live in Bowling Green,” Gordon said.
At-Large McOmber was among several who praised the involvement of many city officials and private citizens in the discussion. “No one can say they got this done single-handedly, but a lot of people can say they contributed to this effort.”
McOmber said the residential component of the project “is the basic bone of contention” for many residents. “It appears to me that most of the opponents to the rezoning will not be in favor of development that includes any rental housing to, most likely, students. Were there not already 21 renters at this location, I might be inclined to agree with the opponents. But I think what the Greens will build at this location will be a much better result for the site than what currently exists.”
At-Large Rowland, who is in the real estate business, said property values on the east side of BG are declining and suggested council needed to apply the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.) to their decision.
“I live on the west side. When Wood County Hospital was getting ready for their (oncology) expansion they sent out letters about the project, invited residents to a meeting, took a lot of time to answer questions and shared sketches. I wish a lot more of that type of thing had been done in this case,” Rowland said.
Third Ward representative Michael Aspacher, said the Greens have a reputation for doing what they say and “I have seen or heard nothing to believe this case will be any different.”
Council used the B-5 classification two weeks ago to rezone property on the south side of the 200 block of East Wooster Street and the 100 block of South Prospect to allow construction of a CVS Pharmacy. That project is expected to get underway this spring.
The CVS project will require demolition of the former Ohio National Guard Armory, the former Deck-Hanneman Funeral Home and two houses on South Prospect.
The following buffering and lighting requirements were added by council to the rezoning:
1. A 6 foot tall solid masonry fence, such as brick, decorate block, or stamped concrete, to run the length of the property line, with wall placement to start lined up with rear of home at 119 N. Summit, as depicted. The wall would run west to east for approximately 98 feet and then south to north, approximately 42 feet, along the property line of 119 N. Summit.
2. A 6 foot tall solid masonry fence, such as brick, decorative block, or stamped concrete, and 5 foot wide landscaping bufferyard to be required if existing home, 117 N. Summit, is demolished. The wall and buffer would run east to west, approximately 56 feet, to line up with face of home at 119 N. Summit.
3. A 5 foot wide landscaping bufferyard, with an appropriate combination of bushes and trees, commencing from the wall to the south and running along the length of the wall for approximately 98 feet.
4. A 6 foot tall solid masonry fence, such as brick, decorative block, or stamped concrete, to run the length of the property line, with wall placement to start lined up with the face of the home at 225 E. Wooster, as depicted. The wall would run south to north for approximately 98 feet and then west to east, approximately 45 feet, adjacent to the property line between 225 E. Wooster and 117 N. Summit, to line up with the face of the existing home at 117 N. Summit.
5. A 10 foot wide landscaping bufferyard, with an appropriate combination of bushes and trees, commencing from the wall to the west and running along the length of the wall for approximately 98 feet.
6. Exterior lighting to be shielded downward to preclude direct light and glare onto adjacent properties.