Zoning changes in BG protested
Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 11:42
Bowling Green City Council Monday night tabled indefinitely three ordinances that would have rezoned several properties for a two-story commercial and apartment development along the north side of the 200 block of East Wooster Street.
The action followed a two-hour public hearing and additional discussion during the council meeting.
Based on comments of council members the rezoning ordinances appeared headed for defeat until Fourth Ward rep Greg Robinette withdrew his motion to approve and followed with the motion to table.
Several council members said the opposition of adjacent property owners was paramount in their opposition.
Robinette pointed out that of the 15 properties in the block bounded by Wooster, Prospect, Court and Summit streets, four are owner-occupied, seven are rental units and four are commercial.
The project would require the demolition of four houses that house 21 individuals. Developer Steve Green said the new building would offer 16 second floor efficiency apartments. He said some of the first-floor commercial spaces have garnered letters of intent from out-of-town businesses should the development move forward. The storefronts would face Wooster.
Developer Michelle Green said residents should feel confident local developers are going to be concerned about their reputation in the community, there is no desire for four-story apartment buildings, so-called "party houses" would be eliminated, tax revenue would increase and a minimum of 24 jobs could be created. She mentioned that many council members had campaigned on job creation and revenue creation.
The entire block is zoned B-2, neighborhood commercial. The request is to rezone to B-3, central business district. B-2 zoning has been in place since 1975.
Robinette said the project would decrease population density in the block and noted the fears many residents expressed about large apartment buildings in the block could be realized under the current zoning.
First Ward rep Daniel Gordon said his resident feedback is "100 percent opposed" to the rezoning. "I think we can all agree there are some good elements and maybe some bad. But we cannot alter the character of the neighborhood. Neighborhoods come first in the First Ward."
Third Ward rep Michael Aspacher said the issue is difficult. "This truly does have the potential to provide enhancements. With the fact that B-2 is potentially more damaging, the benefits of the rezoning slightly outweigh. I will vote yes."
At-Large rep Bruce Jeffers said he likes the project but noted the "100 percent opposition." He said the 2013 city budget has money to update the city's 1989 master plan, which he thought "might develop a clear plan for the corridor" between downtown and Bowling Green State University. "I'd like to see us table this to see how the master plan might play out."
From his perspective, at-large member Robert McOmber does not see rental houses being returned to single-family use because of rehab costs, nor does he believe the other extreme of a large apartment building is likely. "The proposed building is better than what we are looking at right now. It will provide better retail, better apartments and better parking.
"It's a very close call in my opinion. I will take their (the Green's word) about returning zoning to R-2 if the project they plan does not go forward. I will support the rezoning," McOmber said.
"My wish is that the upstairs would be something other than student rentals," Fourth Ward rep Sandy Rowland said. "When I first saw the drawing I hoped it would be better than what's there now." Rowland also mentioned the master plan update and said she would like to see professional offices on the second floor. "Come back after the master plan is redone," she said.
Council President John Zanfardino said he liked the proposed building design and admitted there are issues with some of the houses in the block. "But this has been a 100-percent residential neighborhood. There are monstrous possibilities with B-2, but that has been in place since 1975 and none of that has happened."
Mayor Richard Edwards said he would support a historic district in the area of the Wood County Courthouse, which sits immediately north of block where the rezoning is proposed. "I am surprised it has not happened before now," he said.
During the public hearing residents mentioned neighborhood integrity, concerns about "strip mall" appearances, vacancies in the downtown, lack of transparency in the early planning process, property values, spot zoning and historical values, among others.
The church council of Trinity United Methodist Church, which is just east of the courthouse, went on record against the rezoning.
Representatives of the BG Chamber of Commerce, BG Community Development Foundation and Downtown BG Special Improvement District spoke in favor of the rezoning.