Passionate about the PR: BG residents speak for and against zoning changes


Bowling Green Council’s committee of the whole on Wednesday heard from more than a dozen residents during a public hearing on the city’s proposed zoning code update.

The hearing was held at the Veterans Building at City Park. Approximately 60 people were in the audience, excluding media, city administrators and staff. As with previous meetings, the vast majority of discussion centered on the Pedestrian Residential zone, or PR, proposed in the code update.

“A lot of the things we heard tonight we’ve heard multiple times,” said Council President Mark Hollenbaugh. “But it’s important, especially when big decisions are being made, that citizens participate. And I want you to rest assured that no one’s opinion weighs more than anyone else’s opinion when it comes to council making these decisions.”

Rose Hess spoke about the issue of occupancy, noting that the city’s previous occupancy law was struck down after a court challenge in 2018, in which the judge ruled it was arbitrary. She argued that in the new code, in a one or two-bedroom residence, more people than there are bedrooms would be allowed.

“There is an easy solution – council, you guys and you lady have the power to enact laws and policies. And I am asking council to keep and codify the policy we now have which is one unrelated person in a house, per bedroom,” Hess said.

Councilwoman Rachel Phipps said that they have reached out to the city attorney and that a section of the new code does comply.

Matt Bostdorff said he is a proponent of the zoning changes and spoke about the city’s housing issues.

“We have a severe shortage of affordable housing,” he said. “Don’t underestimate the need for rentals and affordable housing. … We think about affordable housing, we want to think about single family affordable housing. For some people, that is something that will not ever come to fruition,” or they simply prefer to be a renter.

Bostdorff addressed a comment he has heard regarding the city being overrun with multi-family units and accessory dwelling units.

“What is a healthy percentage or ratio of homeowner occupied homes to rentals?” he asked. “I never hear an offering of a target, what we’re trying to hit. … It’s simply what we have too many.”

Bostdorff said that the ideal percentage should be defined.

Matt Kaufman also said he supports the changes in the code, noting he’s a young professional living and renting in town.

“So many people that I’ve talked to and known during my time here haven’t been able to make Bowling Green work long-term as a place to live because they don’t have housing options here that meet their needs,” Kaufman said.

“If you’re looking to retain people who are students at the university … then I think the answer is to allow … the market to dictate where we build these new rental units, these ADUs and these duplexes, where people are going to likely buy them,” he said.

David Drain said that recently members of the Bowling Green Save Our Neighborhoods group took a survey of properties in the proposed PR district. He said they found that less than 60% of the dwelling units are single-family homes, and at least 40% of dwelling units are in two-unit, multi-unit or ADU buildings. At least 25% of the properties already have a two-unit, multi-unit or ADU dwelling on it.

“This is much greater density than you see anywhere else in Bowling Green,” he said. “If you want density, there are plenty of other places for it. The Pedestrian Residential district is not the place for that.”

Rose Drain urged council to add design standards to the PR district, including providing one parking space per bedroom for new builds and alterations, disallowing the addition of external staircases, and establishing a Design Review Board.

She said that the proposal for PR district design standards are just a beginning, a start to something that will serve to energize intentional improvements in the appearance and substance in Bowling Green.

“Our proposed Design Review Board should review in detail how other cities undertake this process and develop a plan for its work in Bowling Green accordingly,” Drain said.

Sandy Wicks encouraged council to vote to postpone the zoning changes.

“The creation of a citizens committee made up of homeowners, business owners, renters and city officials, is needed to further study and develop this revised proposal,” she said.

“What if we up-kept the rentals to an accessible, safe and desirable standard?” said Ross Mazzupappa. “Wouldn’t this be better than new construction?”

David Neuendorff argued that the city doesn’t have enough information to make a decision about the zoning.

“The reason this is flawed is you don’t have data, you really don’t,” he said. “BG doesn’t have the necessary data on density to make its decision. You have a jewel in this community. I know, I came from the big city.”

“Everybody who has spoken tonight has made sense on both sides,” said Karen Wood. “But I live on the east side, and I see how bad this can go.

“I see how it’s going to go and it’s going to look like my side of town.”

She asked council to consider hiring a liaison or ombudsman to take care of property issues, and that zoning or nuisance laws get some “teeth in them so they mean something.”

Wood said she fears “that the west side of Bowling Green will begin to look like the east side of Bowling Green if you vote on this.”

Joseph DeMare argued that landlords in the city have an outsized influence.

“In a democracy, you should listen to the 600 (who signed a petition opposing the PR) and not the half-a-dozen,” he said. “You should listen to the 600 people that passionately come before you and not the half dozen that have more money than the 600 put together.”

The zoning code update is expected to receive a vote during council’s June 12 meeting. Hollenbaugh asked council members to put together any amendments they plan to introduce and provide them to the clerk of council so that a comprehensive list can be put together.

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