Village Council— Senior apartments change OK’d
- Published: December 19, 2019
A redesigned 54-unit senior apartment building was given the green light by Village Council at its Dec. 2 regular meeting.
If it’s funded next year, the building will be three stories tall instead of four, cover a larger portion of the property and include more parking, among other changes.
In a 4–0 vote, Council granted a one-year extension of the Planned Unit Development, or PUD, zoning that Home, Inc. and its development partner St. Mary, of Dayton, had secured earlier this year.
Council member and Home, Inc. employee Kineta Sanford was absent from the meeting.
Village planning staff recommended the extension rather than a re-approval through the PUD process because the design changes were deemed “minor,” according to Village Planning and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger.
“We were fully prepared to go through the preliminary PUD again,” Swinger said at Council meeting. “But staff felt — I felt — it was a minor change.”
The apartments, for qualifying seniors 55 years old and above, are slated for a 1.86-acre parcel between Marshall and Herman streets and directly behind the new fire station now under construction along Xenia Avenue. Last year the project drew criticism from some neighbors and other villagers for being too tall and with too few parking spaces, among other concerns.
In order to be more competitive in next year’s round of tax credit financing, the apartments were redesigned this fall to lower the cost of the project, developers said.
However, the total cost of the project remains at $10.5 million due to an increase in construction costs. The developers are seeking about $8 million in tax credit financing to offset that price tag. The next application is due in February.
According to the new design, the building will be 45 feet tall, a drop from the previous height of 55 feet, and 19,383 square feet — about 2,300 square feet larger — than the original design.
To accommodate the larger footprint, the building was moved 23 feet closer to Herman Street, where it will sit 14 feet from the road, and two feet further east. In addition, there will now be 56 parking spaces, up from the previously approved 42 spaces.
Several design features — height, setback and parking spaces — still deviate from the zoning code, according to Swinger at the Council meeting. The building’s height is nine feet higher than allowed in the underlying zoning district, the Herman Street setback is six feet closer than allowed and there are 12 fewer parking spaces.
However, planning staff argued that the changes were minor, and, taking up the issue at its Nov. 18 meeting, Planning Commission agreed.
One reason for that determination was that the original PUD was granted for an 18,898-square-foot structure due to a calculation error, according to Swinger. As a result, the uptick in square footage being requested was just 485 square feet. Planning staff also argued there was no change to the character of the floor plan, parking actually increased, and the reduced Herman Street setback is mostly to accommodate a porch.
Swinger said that shifting the structure closer to Herman Street rather than increasing its size on both sides was an attempt to keep away from the more residential street, Marshall Street.
“They decided they would keep it from residential areas,” Swinger noted.
Speaking at the Council meeting, Wes Young of St. Mary called the hike in square footage a “very small change.” He added that the increase in parking does add cost to the project, but that it’s “cost-effective” to put in all of the parking spaces at once, rather than in phases, as had previously been approved.
Young also said that in his experience, fewer parking spaces are needed at senior housing apartments, which is why the plan calls for less than a 1:1 between units and parking spaces (the underlying local code calls for a 1:1.25 ratio).
“In senior housing of this type, you typically don’t need one car per unit,” he said, later adding, “Not everyone’s going to have a car, not at all.”
The new design now allows extra spaces for building maintenance staff, home health aides and visitors, according to Young.
On the issue of parking, Council Vice President Marianne MacQueen later noted that some towns are doing away with minimum parking requirements entirely.
“We have more parking than we need and businesses or residents should be able to determine how many parking spaces they need,” she said.
In other changes to the project, developers will now allow residents to have pets — a result of new state regulations — and will allow a wider range of seniors to apply for housing. That range includes “unrestricted units at market-rate, and some units affordable to seniors of extremely low income,” according to a Home, Inc. memo earlier this fall.
Preliminary PUD plans are valid for one year, during which time a developer must return to submit a final plan, according to Swinger. Some other aspects of the project will be discussed at that time, she added.
Developers will learn if they are successful in securing the financing in May 2020, and, if they are, groundbreaking could commence in spring 2021, according to a memo from Home, Inc.
In other Council business—
Weeds violations to draw citations
Council passed 4–0 several changes to local weeds ordinances that were recommended to them by Planning Commission.
The Village will no longer trim plants, trees or shrubbery that are in violation of local weeds ordinances. Instead, local property owners will get a citation if they do not trim their offending vegetation after receiving a notice from the Village.
“The main thrust is we want to remove the responsibility of the Village to remedy it,” said Swinger, the zoning and planning administrator. “That has created a huge roadblock for us.”
Offenders will now be cited with a minor misdemeanor and must appear before Mayor’s Court, where, Swinger noted, fines could be lessened or eliminated if the property owner proved they trimmed the area.
Previously, local law gave the Village the authority to either trim the vegetation themselves or find a contractor, then bill the property owner for the work.
Under the revised law, the first step in the process is that a complaint is filed by a citizen or Village staff member. After being notified by letter, the property owner has 10 days to trim or remove the vegetation. After that, they will be cited.
From the floor, incoming Council member Laura Curliss asked the Village to reconsider the legislation, which she said would take a “tool from your tool chest.”
In response, Housh said that the Village has had difficulty finding contractors to take the jobs.
In addition, Curliss was critical of creating a situation in which “government’s only way of dealing with someone is charging them with a crime.”
“This one’s an obvious [one] for a civil remedy rather than a criminal remedy,” she said.
Village Manager Josué Salmerón responded that most incidents will be addressed with a phone call or letter, and that a citation is a last resort.
Also from the floor, Emily Seibel suggested that the citations be delivered by the zoning department rather than the YSPD.
Council Vice President MacQueen said that she was concerned that dealing with contractors has kept the zoning office, which has “a lot on their plate,” from doing their work.
“People have an opportunity to get it corrected. If they don’t get it corrected, they can go to Mayor’s Court. I don’t see it as a big deal,” she said.
The weeds ordinance specifies that local property owners must keep grasses nine inches or less, manage certain invasive species, not allow their vegetation to extend into the sidewalk or street and cut down dead trees that might fall on a sidewalk or other right-of-way.
Charter change ballot language parsed
Council discussed several options for placing charter amendments on the March 2020 primary ballot. The amendments deal with extending the mayor’s term from two to four years and enfranchising local 16- and 17-year-olds and noncitizens.
The amendments were inadvertently combined into a single ballot measure in November, which local voters narrowly rejected, 722–657 (52%–48%).
Council Clerk Judy Kintner said that based upon “feedback from the electorate” to split the issues, she is exploring several options. However, it may be difficult to separate the voting issues from one another because “they cannot be put before the electorate as an either/or.”
“How do you make this language fit so that if both issues pass, all of the language fits?” Kintner asked.
Instead of seeking both changes at the same election, MacQueen suggested that the issue of youth and noncitizen voting be taken up at separate elections. She added that voting on enfranchising 16- and 17-year-olds could come first, as it was the first one to be brought before Council. Stokes agreed with that strategy.
But Kreeger pushed back, saying she was compelled by the arguments for noncitizen voting, especially for legal permanent residents.
“I think that’s very meaningful,” she said of giving noncitizens the right to vote on local matters, “particularly in our current times.”
Housh said Council should continue to explore ways to allow citizens to vote on both matters at the next election.
From the floor, Curliss suggested Council wait until the November 2020 general election to pose the charter changes, as turnout is higher during the general election, and many independents do not vote in the primary.
“There are 240 people here who are not Democrats or Republicans,” Curliss said, citing public records.
Council will continue the discussion at a future meeting.
Police review committee nearing end
Kreeger updated Council on the work of an ad hoc citizen committee that has met several times over the last month to review a possible disciplinary violation involving two local police officers.
Kreeger said that the report will soon be made public and that the citizens who participated will be named. The Village has previously said that the names would be withheld.
Kreeger added that the process was “fascinating” and “time consuming” and she would like to review its effectiveness with Council to see if the process should be used again.
Housh said that although “it is always a challenge when we try something different” he thought the addition of citizens in the disciplinary process brought “more objectivity to the mix.”
Traffic survey concerns aired
During his manager’s report, Salmerón talked briefly about the Village survey on the temporary traffic trial, whose preliminary results had been released at the previous meeting.
The online survey elicidted 704 responses to the three-week traffic initiative, with most respondents not in favor of making the changes permanent. A majority of respondents also said the changes made drop-off at Mills Lawn safer.
Housh said that there were concerns with how the survey was designed. Specifically, it may have allowed more than one response per person.
“People were able to take the survey as much as they wanted to,” Housh said. “I’m not saying that means that the overall results weren’t valid.”
Housh added that the Village knew about the possibility of duplicates from the survey’s start, but was limited in how it could prevent them.
Salmerón said he would be looking at responses that came from the same IP address to check for duplicates, which in some cases could have been sent accidentally. A report will be forthcoming.
“That was the risk of leaving it open, but we wanted to capture as many people as possible” Salmerón said of the survey.
Salmerón said he would also be analyzing the survey to see how opinions on the initiative differed among stakeholder groups.
Xenia Avenue food forest planted
Local teen Zenya Miyazaki shared an update with Council on the food forest he helped plant earlier this fall as part of a Scouts BSA project.
The food forest was initiated by Village Manger Patti Bates as her “legacy project” and is located on an acre of municipal land on the east side of Xenia Avenue just south of Allen Street.
In October, volunteers planted 61 trees and bushes in one day, which Miyazaki said included “everything from hazelnuts to elderberries.”
The forest will help with flooding, reduce the seasonal cost of mowing and improve the quality of living for local people and animals, Miyazaki added.
“In the end we have a new, more biodiverse, charming little patch of land that in time will become a forest,” he said.
Leadership evaluations underway
Housh reported that annual evaluations of the Village manager and Council clerk were underway. As part of the process, 12 of Village Manager Salmerón’s direct reports and nine of Council Clerk Judy Kintner’s colleagues were giving feedback. “Self-evaluation” is also part of the process, Housh said.
Kreeger suggested that Council might consider being evaluated as well.
“Ultimately it’s the community who evaluates us through the election process but on the other hand, I always welcome input about how to navigate and move more effectively within the team,” she said.
Housh said he was open to exploring that idea.
Council’s final meeting of the year is Monday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers