BG residents continue to pan ‘PR’ district

By Peter Kuebeck, [email protected]

The controversial Pedestrian Residential district in the city’s proposed zoning code update again drew comments from a number of residents on Monday at the Bowling Green Council meeting.

A total of 10 speakers spoke on the issue.

Referred to frequently as the “PR,” the proposed district 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 alter minimum lot dimensions.

“I think the whole plan is superficial, incomplete, not fully developed,” said Vassiliki Leontis, who argued that “the plan is not backed up by any rigorous study of the infrastructure of the city,” such as sewage and how to avoid flooding, or where cars would go in the new district.

Kathleen Dennis said that she supports a central residential district surrounding the main shopping district, and that stable homeownership is needed in the central areas.

“If you want to change zoning that’s appropriate to create this new walkable community, you need to start with your rental regulations, divest some of these rental areas, and increase your stable homeowner-occupied areas,” Dennis said.

Christina Humble-Mazzupappa said it seems as though the city’s goal with the PR is to make the downtown and the surrounding area only for renters. She said it’s hard to find homes for those looking to buy them in Bowling Green.

Margaret Baker said that when she attended planning commission meetings where the zoning code update was discussed, she became worried that the word “trend” kept coming up from the company that had authored the plan. She pointed to failed malls in the area, including Southwyck in Toledo.

“Please don’t go by trends … make local business successful,” Baker said.

“My main concern right now is I live in the historic district,” said Fern Kao. “What is to happen if somebody’s house is sold and torn down, and the new people, developers or someone, want to put in a new business or two… small houses on one lot? Are they still required to make the architecture reflect the current historic architecture,” or can they put up an “ultra-modern” structure.

David Drain said that a petition opposing the PR has drawn over 400 signatures.

“They’re all through the city and in and out of the proposed PR,” he said.

Drain and another speaker, Steve Ricard, referenced a brochure from the Congress for the New Urbanism which Drain said was meant to justify developments like the PR. He said that it discusses benefits, but for cities different than Bowling Green.

“There’s nothing like Bowling Green on their list of successes,” he said.

Ricard said the brochure discussed important processes for such developments, such as addressing the most problematic elements first, responding to the community’s vision and needs, and first seeking community agreement.

In other business, council:

• Saw Ryan Moody sworn in as a firefighter with the Bowling Green Fire Division.

• Introduced an ordinance authorizing Director of Public Services Joe Fawcett to request qualifications and enter into contracts for the replacement of equipment for the city’s information technology system. According to the legislative package document prepared for council, “the city’s computer networking infrastructure was replaced in 2017 and the equipment is at the end of its useful life and approaching the end of support. The IT Manager has completed a review of what equipment will be needed in the new city building and other facilities… Funding for this project was approved in the 2023 budget.”

• Introduced an ordinance authorizing Utilities Director Brian O’Connell to advertise for bids and enter into contracts for the lease of municipal property for agricultural purposes. The eight properties include 7.22 acres on Van Camp Road, 34.17 acres at West Poe Road and Green Road, 18.5 acres on Napoleon Road, 10.8 acres on Bishop Road, 14.23 acres on King Road (west), 28.39 acres on King Road (east), 72.06 acres at Hull Prairie Road and Ovitt Road, and 36.58 acres at East Poe Road and Carter Road. According to the legislative package document, “the agricultural leases for all properties… expire at the end of 2023. Three-year lease terms have been used on previous contracts. The Utilities Director recommends continuation of that type of lease. Several of the properties are located in industrial business parks. If property is sold to a developer, the contract allows the property to be removed from the lease. In fairness to the lessee, the city would then compensate the lessee for their costs if crops are not able to be harvested.”

• Introduced an ordinance authorizing O’Connell to advertise a request for qualifications for engineering services, advertise for bids, and enter into contracts for the design, engineering and construction of the Village Pump Station improvements. A second ordinance was introduced allowing O’Connell to apply for a loan and execute a loan agreement with the Ohio Water Development Authority or the Ohio EPA Water Pollution Control Loan Fund for the project. The Village subdivision is located on the north side of West Poe Road, just west of Bowling Green High School; the pump station was constructed in 1965. The preliminary construction cost estimate for the project is $1 million.

• Introduced an ordinance authorizing O’Connell to enter into agreements or contracts to accept funds or grants for water service line inventory. According to the legislative package document, “the city has the responsibility to positively identify and document the pipe material of the water service line that serves each customer from the water main to the structure. This effort is substantial in terms of effort and expense. Water Distribution and GIS staff have been working over the past few years to ensure the water service line material inventory map is continually being updated but more work is needed. Staff has applied for and been chosen to receive a $50,000 Ohio EPA Lead Service Line Inventory and Mapping Grant. Staff has also been involved in discussions and planning with Northwestern Water and Sewer District regarding the sharing of (American Rescue Plan Act) funds received from Wood County for this effort. Because of the potential dollar amounts involved, this request seeks approval to continue to pursue, enter into agreement for contracts and ultimately accept funding and grants from any appropriate agency for the inventory efforts.”

• Heard from resident Ben Vollmar, who said he was re-presenting a proposal for American Rescue Plan Act funding designed to assist businesses who weren’t able to access COVID relief grants. He presented council with a copy of a proposed application.

• Heard that the finance committee will meet at 6:15 p.m. on Feb. 6.