Public hearing on BG Pedestrian Residential district may be in February

By Peter Kuebeck, [email protected]

A public forum to discuss the controversial Pedestrian Residential district in the city’s proposed zoning code update could take place as early as February.

Bowling Green Council on Monday met as a committee of the whole in their final working session to discuss the proposed code.

Monday’s session was the fifth such working session council has held since early October, aimed at moving through suggestions and recommendations about the proposed code made by the planning commission, and some offered by council members. No legislative action is taken during these work sessions; the expressed goal of council’s work in these meetings is to arrive at a clean, final draft of the zoning code that can then 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 more than a year. The Cincinnati-based firm ZoneCo was contracted to revamp the code.

Councilwoman Rachel Phipps led Monday’s working session.

She said that the next steps were that council will now send “the numerous changes that we’ve determined to ZoneCo, who will give us a clean draft. At that point, we will definitely hold a community forum on the Pedestrian Residential specifically, and any other forums we deem necessary.”

Phipps said that, based on when they expect to have a clean draft of the proposed code back from ZoneCo, the public forums could happen as early as February.

During the council meeting that followed the working session, council heard from seven residents regarding the Pedestrian Residential district.

Referred to frequently as the PR, it is a neighborhood area located in a rough, elongated 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, and that minimum lot dimensions would be smaller.

Rose Drain suggested that, if the council wanted to consider the PR, they should also consider other areas of the city where it may be more appropriate than in older neighborhoods, possibly in new developments.

Chris Humble-Mazzupappa said that it’s hard for younger residents to find starter homes in BG, saying that many are made into rentals. Rentals, she said, don’t promote long-term residency or investment.

“Don’t dismantle our old neighborhoods for more rentals,” she said. “I think Bowling Green already has a lot of trendy assets. I think downtown is already on the verge of being something great.”

Sam Morkal-Williams, however, said he thought “it would be good to add quality rental units.

“I emphasize quality. … I know that as a young couple, it’s very hard to find suitable quality housing in Bowling Green. If you’re unable to buy a house, it’s kind of a crapshoot” to find someplace adequate to live, he said. “I think this zoning change would be beneficial to people like us.”

During the working session, council voted on a series of changes to the working draft code, including:

• Making day care centers a permitted use in the Pedestrian Residential district, by a vote of 4-3, suggested by Councilman Jeff Dennis. Greg Robinette, Nick Rubando and Bill Herald voted against.

• Unanimously approving a change that would, among other issues, make dog parks a conditional use in the Recreational-Conservation Zone in the proposed code.

• Approved removing the maximum height requirement of 60 feet for the Central Business District. Robinette, who proposed the change, said the purpose was to align that district with the provisions of the Gateway District. The measure passed 5-2, with Rubando and Herald voting against.

• Unanimously approved a motion to increase the maximum building height in the R-3 residential district from 40 feet to 45 feet. Robinette said that this provides some flexibility for builders, including the possibility of townhouses.

During Monday’s council meeting, council:

• Approved the 2023 annual budget ordinance. The non-utility budget totals nearly $95 million, and, combined with the utility budget, 2023 appropriations total approximately $204 million. When interdepartmental transfers are taken into account, the “bottom-line” budget amounts to about $159 million.

• Introduced an ordinance vacating a portion of Gould Street and reserving a utility easement in the city. According to the legislative package document prepared for council, during its Dec. 7 meeting, the Planning Commission recommended the approval of the “street vacation request for the unimproved portion of Gould Street that runs west/east between South Enterprise Street and Railroad Avenue.” The petitioners are John Walker and Julie Ann Stevens, Stephen and Carla Meredith, David Codding on behalf of Rail View Properties, and Vicky Valentine-Adler on behalf of Lawnview Rentals LLC. “Due to the existing combined sewer and a Buckeye Cable vault, administrative staff has requested a utility easement be part of the street vacation, if approved,” the document stated. A public hearing was scheduled for Feb. 6 at 6:45 p.m.