Bowling Green Council has started work on the city’s zoning code revision.

Council met last week as a committee of the whole during the work session, which was run by Councilwoman Rachel Phipps.

Phipps said at the outset that the meeting – held after the conclusion of the regular Oct. 17 council meeting – would be the first of several to work through the zoning code. By the end of these meetings, they should have an adoption draft of the zoning code that can be added to council’s formal agenda.

Work on revising the city’s zoning code, which was adopted in the mid-1970s, has been ongoing for over a year. The city held a series of presentations by Cincinnati-based firm ZoneCo, which was contracted to revamp the code, in October 2021, and February and June of this year to explain the contents of the draft. The planning commission in recent months has held four meetings focused on reviewing the draft code and making recommendations to council.

“It has not been a small task,” Phipps said of the work that has already been accomplished. “I am so grateful for everyone’s hard work and everyone who has contributed to get us to this point.”

During last week’s session, council first worked through a series of 25 edits to the draft code – largely typographical and wording changes – suggested by ZoneCo’s Nolan Nicaise, who worked on the document and joined the meeting remotely.

Council then took up two suggested alterations to the draft zoning map which were forwarded to them by the planning commission.

The first was to change the proposed zoning designation for Trinity United Methodist Church from Pedestrian Residential to Institutional, which passed unanimously.

The second was the proposed changing of the name for the Neighborhood Commercial District in the draft map to the Limited Commercial Zone.

“Neighborhood Commercial zone seems to me to be just ‘commercial,’” said Councilman Jeff Dennis. “We’re talking about Kroger, Big Lots, Wal-Mart.”

He said he favored simply calling areas with that zoning “commercial.” Phipps said she was in favor of that alteration as well.

Planning Commission Chair Bob McOmber was asked why the commission asked for the change. McOmber said the issue was that the designation of “neighborhood commercial” gave the impression that the zones were located in the middle of neighborhoods, which they aren’t. He said the word “neighborhood” was confusing for a lot of people, and that he had no particular preference for renaming it “limited commercial” or “commercial,” noting it was a cosmetic, and not a substantive, change.

Dennis said that the term “limited commercial” was a phrase defined elsewhere in the draft code, and so the commission members voted unanimously to change the name of the zoning to simply “commercial.”

The zoning revision also received attention during that evening’s regular council meeting, focused on the proposed Pedestrian Residential zoning.

That zoning was a major focus of public comment and discussion throughout the work of the planning commission. The district, referred to frequently as the “PR,” is a neighborhood area located in a rough donut around the downtown. The proposed area is bordered by Poe Road to the north, Napoleon Road to the south, and on the east largely by Enterprise Street. To the west, it is substantially bordered by Maple Street, but it also extends to include portions along Eberly and Gorrell avenues.

Among the Pedestrian Residential district’s major features is that it would allow some businesses to operate within that neighborhood district.

Resident Joyce Kepke told council that she has written to both council and commission members about the PR.

“I want to state my huge concern about this huge district you’re creating. It’s a large district,” she said, “and it’s composed of large historical houses but many smaller, older homes that are owner-occupied, and rentals. They’re the homes of many of our older residents” who want to live in residential areas.

Kepke said she was concerned about the nature of the businesses that could be allowed in the PR.

“How will you control it as long as it falls under the loose term neighborhood business?” she asked. “Personally, I think it’s a discrimination against the older and lower income people who cannot afford large homes. … If (the PR) is so nice, why isn’t the whole town residential business, not just the older parts of town?”

Also at the meeting, council:

• Heard Mayor Mike Aspacher praise the work of the Bowling Green Fire Division, Bowling Green Police Division, and others during a fire at an apartment complex, saying the city was once again “able to witness the value, professionalism and skill of our public safety services.” He said that a large portion of the building had to be evacuated, and there were residents who had limited mobility. He commended the fire division for their response, and the BGPD for providing logistical support and also assisting to evacuate residents and maintain traffic.

He further said that the Bowling Green City Schools assisted with the evacuation, providing buses and handicapped-accessible vans that helped move the residents to the Community Center, where the Red Cross worked with city staff to set up a temporary shelter.

“I could not be more proud of our safety services and how they responded. This was a community-wide response,” Aspacher said. “This is just an example of how Bowling Green comes together in a very challenging situation.”

• Heard Aspacher welcome Hunter Brown as the new city attorney. “I’m just more than thrilled to have him on the job,” he said. Later in the meeting, Brown announced that Alyssa Blackburn has been hired as the Bowling Green city prosecutor. He said Blackburn was formerly with the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office and has approximately 10 years of experience. She begins Monday, he said.

• Heard that council’s community improvement committee will hold a meeting Nov. 7 at 6 p.m.

• Heard that council’s finance committee will receive a quarterly update on the city’s finances Monday at 6:15 p.m.