BG residents ask council about zoning, pickleball, rescue funds


By Peter Kuebeck

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From zoning to pickleball to rescue funds, Bowling Green residents let their voices be heard on a variety of topics during Monday’s council meeting.

Referencing both the new zoning code enacted recently in the city, and a pending ordinance that would sunset non-conforming occupancy uses in the city after 28 years, Katelyn Elliott said she was there to share her “shock and hurt.”

“I cannot believe the way people discuss” renters and Bowling Green State University students.

“It is obvious BGSU students are not viewed as equal members of the community,” Elliott said, until they are expected to settle in the city and become homeowners after they graduate.

“There is no place in Bowling Green, it seems, for people who are not home buyers or BGSU students,” she said, urging all members of council, and Mayor Mike Aspacher, to reject the pending ordinance.

Referencing other pending legislation, Joe DeMare spoke on climate change.

“2023 is a really incredible year in terms of global warming. As we speak, at the North Pole right now, temperatures are actually above freezing and ice is melting at the North Pole,” he said.

“Local zoning can be a tool, can be a weapon against global warming,” he said.

DeMare said Bowling Green used to be ahead of things, with the installation of its wind farm 20 years ago, as well as the large solar field located in the city.

“We’ve really fallen behind now because other communities are talking about 100% renewables. And zoning is where we can regain the lead here,” he said. “I don’t think we need to reduce our taxes on new developments.”

David Neuendorf spoke about the city’s rental registration ordinance, noting that it relies on self-certification.

“When you have a self-registration, that’s a temptation for somebody to not be completely truthful,” he said, “especially where there’s no follow-up.”

Neuendorf advocated for the Bowling Green Fire Division to conduct random inspections to verify fire safety conditions, including fire alarms and smoke detectors.

“I would ask you seriously to think about it,” he said.

Rose Drain, of the Bowling Green Save Our Neighborhoods group, said that they are collaborating with the East Side neighborhood group to distribute informational sheets about residents’ rights and responsibilities to those moving in.

Ben Vollmar, who had submitted a proposal to the city aimed at creating an American Rescue Plan Act business grant fund – and which was voted by the city’s finance committee in May to be sent on to the city attorney – spoke at the meeting.

He said that he now “renounces” his support of the fund – though he would apply for it if it is passed by the city.

“The ARPA funds exist because that money was taken from all individuals working in the private sector, individuals like myself,” he said. “This is done not by voluntary consent, but by extortion, commonly referred to as ‘taxation.’ Or perhaps these funds exist due to the creation of new money, which is the theft of the value of money.

“The only ethical thing to do and the only action I support, is to simply give these funds back. These funds should be distributed to all Bowling Green workers and employers within the private sector, and the private sector alone.”

Council additionally heard from Deb Sell, of the Bowling Green Pickleball Enthusiast group. Sell thanked council for the allocating ARPA funds in 2022 to further the creation of outdoor pickleball courts in the city.

“Hopefully we will have courts soon,” she said.

Sell said the group has been actively fundraising, raising $207,000 so far from both businesses and individuals. Sell additionally said that the group has been able to do some instruction about the game at the Community Center, and they wish to expand that to working adults and kids, but current scheduling issues don’t permit that, showing the need for outdoor courts.

In other business, Aspacher welcomed Bowling Green City Schools Superintendent Ted Hasellman as his guest at the meeting.

“We are really excited for Dr. Haselman to join our community,” Aspacher said. “I have every confidence Dr. Haselman is going to bring a sense of” excitement and change to the schools.

“Working together, we’ve got some great things that can take place and I look forward to all of it,” Haselman said.

Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter noted that Monday marked the final meeting for Public Services Director Joe Fawcett, who has taken a position as Perrysburg’s new city administrator. She thanked him for his excellent work over the years.

“Joe, thank you and we wish you all the best,” she said.

“I did want to say thank you very much to council,” Fawcett said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with you on the numerous issues we’ve accomplished and attacked together.”

He also thanked the community.

“To serve your hometown is a unique opportunity so I’ve really enjoyed this. It’s a bittersweet move for me. We love the community, I love working here, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass,” Fawcett said.

He thanked both Aspacher and Tretter.

“I’ve learned a lot from both of you,” Fawcett said. “This is a phenomenal team that you have here in the administration and council. The community should feel lucky to have an organization of this caliber and I can’t thank you enough.”

“You are resourceful, you are energized, you are incredibly professional, and you tolerated me,” said Council President Mark Hollenbaugh, “so I think Perrysburg is getting a very good get on this one.”

“There’s been many, many fine employees of Bowling Green and I hope the residents understand the city is well run, and part of the reason for that is people like Joe,” said Councilman Bill Herald. “I, myself, will miss you.”

Also at the meeting, council:

• Introduced a resolution and an ordinance “aimed at new development which supports goals to increase the diversity of housing options in the city,” according to the legislative package document prepared for council. The ordinance provides a limited-time moratorium on permit fees for residential building. The specifics are related to planning review, inspection fees, and other permits related to construction such as utilities and site development. Other cities have successfully utilized similar programs including Napoleon. The moratorium will expire on Dec. 31, 2025.

A second resolution related to the city’s Community Reinvestment Area program, updates that legislation to flesh out the program as it relates to residential housing. Additionally, the State of Ohio has passed new legislation relating to CRAs and this updates the city’s legislation to reflect these changes to state laws.

• Introduced an ordinance incorporating changes required by state law into the city’s tax code, effective Dec. 31, relating to income taxes. According to the document, “staff is projecting the changes will result in less revenue, however, not a material amount with respect to the allocated funds.”

• Introduced an ordinance creating a victim’s advocate position in the Bowling Green City Prosecutor’s Office. According to the document, the office handles nearly 8,000 criminal and traffic cases each year, and the position will walk the victims of these crimes through elements of the process which have been passed into law this year by the Ohio General Assembly, including help to manage necessary paperwork for restitution, conduct interviews, and do other tasks mandatory under Ohio law. Additionally, victims now have the right to have a victim’s advocate present for all court proceedings. The position will provide guidance to victims on how the court system works, as well as additional resources available to them outside the court system such as counseling services or available housing in domestic violence situations.

• Heard from Hollenbaugh that, due to the Labor Day holiday, the first council meeting in September will be held Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m.

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