Streetscape design clarified
- Published: July 12, 2012
Downtown will get a makeover this summer — and it’s not just the sidewalks. All of the Bradford Pear trees that line Xenia Ave. will be removed and later replaced, new downward directional streetlights installed, parking spaces reconfigured and on-street bicycle parking added as part of a plan Village Manager Laura Curliss presented this week to Village Council.
“The streetscape plan started as our effort to help the contractor under contract to do the sidewalk,” Curliss told Council on Monday. “When we started looking at what we wanted the contractor to do, we saw things we could make better.”
The plan, drafted by Curliss, Village Assistant Planner Ed Amrhein and Roger Beal of Yellow Springs Design (a local business), is an expansion of a sidewalk repair project taking place this year along the east side of Xenia Ave. between Marshall St. and the bike path, for which $50,000 in capital expenditures were budgeted in 2012. All of the downtown work is on target for completion by the end of the August, according to John Lamont of Lamont Excavating, the Village’s contractor.
Council members and Villagers expressed concern at the Council meeting about some elements of the plan, including the shorter on-street parking spaces, the safety of the new streetlights, the location of bicycle parking and the abandonment of the “bumpout,” a concrete curb extension that would be located in what is now a parking space.
“I think it’s a little bit too tight,” local resident Dan Carrigan said of the proposed 21-foot, on-street parking spaces. Currently the spaces downtown vary from 21 feet to 24 feet. Carrigan said that the average motor vehicle is 17 feet long, which leaves little room for maneuvering and could lead to delays on Xenia Ave. as people take longer to park. Local resident Carol Cobb said she sometimes circles downtown to find a larger space in which to park and that since the village population is aging, larger parking spaces should be considered to aid older drivers.
“It is difficult as you get older to negotiate [parking spaces],” she said.
Curliss responded that the parking spaces were standardized in order to accommodate one on-street parking space for bicycles, which would be located in front of The Shop and Urban Handmade. That space, and other locations on private property downtown, might use a specially-designed bicycle rack shaped like a yellow spring, Curliss said.
Rick Donahoe said that using Short St. for bicycle parking — rather than Xenia Ave. — would be a safer alternative, while Council President Judith Hempfling affirmed that a space closer to Xenia Ave. businesses might be better used.
Marianne MacQueen lamented the loss of the bump out, or curb extension, in front of the Emporium that she said would have calmed traffic and added to the downtown street life.
“I’m disheartened to hear that it’s not being included — I think it would be a big asset for the downtown,” MacQueen said.
Curliss said that the bump out would have impeded pedestrian and vendor traffic during biannual Street Fair, so the idea was abandoned.
Council member Gerry Simms questioned whether the new streetlights would be adequate to light the entrances of downtown businesses and provide enough lighting to promote safety. Curliss responded that the new downward facing streetlights will better light downtown sidewalks than the current streetlights, which waste much of their light.
“The lighting will be pedestrian scale,” Curliss said, adding, “it will be a softer light but there will be more of it.”
The number of streetlights downtown will be increased from nine to 20, according to a memo from Curliss. The same lights, which are proposed to be energy-efficient induction lighting in a “railroad style,” will be ordered for Dayton St. The streetlight replacement may be financed through the electric fund, Curliss added.
While an earlier version of the plan called for the removal of some Bradford Pear trees downtown, now all of the pears slated for removal this summer, according to Curliss. This includes all 12 trees on the east side of Xenia Ave. and two of the four trees on the west side of Xenia Ave. The two large sycamore trees near Bonadie’s Glass Studio will be kept, Curliss said.
In discussions with the Tree Committee a consensus emerged that the Bradford Pear trees should be removed since they are now considered an invasive species, Curliss reported. In addition, the roots of the trees are pulling up the concrete and since they have been topped several times to make way for electricity lines, their lifespan has been reduced.
“They could live longer but they will start creating more issues,” Curliss said of the pear trees.
This fall eight new trees will be planted on the east side of Xenia Ave. and 10 new trees will be planted on the west side in 2013, increasing the number of Xenia Ave. street trees from 16 to 20, according to Curliss. Villagers can recommend appropriate trees to the Village to consider. Since overhead electric lines will be buried under the sidewalk as part of the plan, they will no longer pose a threat to street trees, Curliss said.
Wintrow said that the lack of green downtown will be hard to adjust to, but that the misshapen pear trees could be replaced with a more attractive type of tree. In the meantime, downtown businesses might take the opportunity to improve their facades since they will be more visible, Wintrow said.
In other Council business:
• Council passed 4–0 a resolution approving the expenditure of $100,000 in greenspace funds to permanently preserve a portion of the Glen Helen Nature Preserve. The Tecumseh Land Trust had requested the amount to use as a match for state and federal grants. In a partnership with Antioch College, the Tecumseh Land Trust aims to preserve 182 acres of land in Glen Helen that includes the Riding Centre and the School Forest, which might cost around $546,000, according to land trust Executive Director Krista Magaw. With the release of money there remains about $45,000 in the Village Greenspace Fund, according to Magaw.
• Council passed 4–0 the second and final reading of ordinances on the use of Village water and sewer services for customers outside the Village. The ordinances renew the intention of charging out-of-town customers a 50 percent surcharge for water and a 100 percent surcharge for sewer service, which was passed in 2010 legislation but never implemented. While customers will be forgiven the amount that was not previously collected, the Village from now on intends to collect the surcharge, according to a memo from Curliss.
• Council passed 4–0 a resolution calling on Ohio Gov. Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly to reinstate the local government fund, which was cut in half for Ohio municipalities in 2012 and is slated to eventually be eliminated. The local government fund was slashed in an effort to reduce the state’s budget deficit, but the deficit has since been eliminated, according to Curliss. Last year the Village received about $160,000 from the local government fund, according to Council member Wintrow.
• Council discussed a draft development agreement with Home, Inc. to build four permanently affordable homes on Village-owned land on Cemetery Street. The development agreement will be voted on at an upcoming Council meeting so Home, Inc. can begin seeking funds for the project.
According to the agreement, Home, Inc. will purchase each of the four lots for one-half of their appraised value and construct single family homes that are 1,200 to 1,500 square feet with a one- or two-car garage. The appraised value of each lot is expected to be about $40,000. The Village will install a new water main to serve the new housing, which was at one time estimated to cost $80,000. However, at the meeting engineer John Eastman said that estimate was not firm.
According to a memo from Curliss the riparian forest land on the south side of the Cemetery Street property will be preserved and remain public land, with fencing along the forest edge. Council member Wintrow observed that to accommodate the preservation of riparian land, the housing lots are now wider, coming closer to the Northern Gateway project that will be located on the far eastern portion of the Cemetery Street property.
“I’m sure the people in the one lot are going to be concerned about having a parking lot next to them,” Wintrow said. Emily Seibel, executive director of Home, Inc. affirmed that the Village can configure the lots however it pleases before selling to Home, Inc.
According to the draft development agreement, predevelopment work at the site may take from one to three years and construction of the homes a further one to two years.