Village Council votes to raise rents at Lawson Place apartments
- Published: July 17, 2023
Residents at Lawson Place, the 16-unit apartment building owned by the Village, will soon see a 3% rent increase as the result of a unanimous vote at the Monday, July 3, Village Council meeting.
The increases are based on the condition for each unit: $648 per month for unrenovated units and $721 per month for renovated units for the lease year beginning in July of 2023. In July of 2024, the rents will increase to $668.37 per month for unrenovated units and $742.63 per month for renovated units.
According to Village Manager Josué Salmerón, the increases are necessary to cover the cost of maintaining the apartments, including increases in utility rates recently passed by Village Council.
“We have talked about the financial performance of Lawson place,” Salmerón said. “This resolution memorializes that intent.”
The Village purchased the Lawson Place apartments in 2021 to stabilize the number of affordable rental units in the Village. As a part of that effort, the Village does accept housing vouchers as payment.
“Our intention is to keep the property below market rate,” Salmerón said.
Currently, the market rate for a one-bedroom apartment in Greene County is $833 per month.
Salmerón said the resolution would take effect immediately, but Lawson Place residents won’t see an increase until September.
“We’re going to make sure to communicate with all of the residents to make sure they are informed and prepared for the rate change,” Salmerón said.
Council member Marianne MacQueen asked if the lease should be clarified to reflect the utilities that the tenants were responsible for paying. Currently, tenants are responsible for electric utilities. Village Solicitor Amy Blankenship said the language would need to be updated, but she hadn’t had the opportunity to scrutinize the lease “with a fine tooth comb.”
“In order to get the notice to the tenant, we need Council to take this action,” Blankenship said. “I suggest you move forward so we can get those rent increases in place.”
Council member Gavin DeVore Leonard asked if it would be possible to implement an automatic 3% increase for Lawson Place, which he said was below the consumer index increase for rentals.
“I think we should decide on an automatic increase,” DeVore Leonard said, reminding Council members that delays in increasing rates were, in part, the reason for the Village’s current financial situation.
Blankenship said the two-year increases set would potentially bind a future Council, but that the practice wasn’t forbidden, and a future Council could choose to end or alter the automatic increase.
She did, however, caution Council, saying the Village’s ownership of Lawson Place was new enough that it may be best to make a two-year increase commitment. MacQueen said she was in favor of passing the legislation with minor changes.
“I think we should let this roll out another year or so if we are going to start automatically increasing the rent,” MacQueen said.
In other Village Council business, July 3:
Council members were joined by representatives from Cedarville and Jamestown to further discuss the collaborative efforts between the three entities to create a joint dispatch for police, fire and EMS services. Salmerón said the team has been “hard at work” determining next steps for becoming a primary public safety answering point, or PSAP, and that Council should expect a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, at their July 17 meeting.
If successful, the partnership will serve about 15,000 residents in Yellow Springs, Cedarville and Jamestown. Brian Noah, Jamestown Chief of Police, said he was eager to continue moving forward with the process.
“This partnership will allow us to move forward in a financially responsible manner,” Noah said.
The genesis of the partnership was a rise in dispatch fees from Xenia’s dispatch. While Yellow Springs would see a fee increase of $6,992.60 between 2023 and 2026, the Village of Cedarville would see their cost go from $6,183.90 in 2023 to $100,000 in 2026. Jamestown would see the $3,760.28 they paid in 2023 increase to $100,000 in 2026.
Mayor John Cody of Cedarville said he was happy to see the partnership after the county “dumped” a new bill on the municipalities.
“It wasn’t anything we could afford,” Cody said. “I think we have a real way forward.”
According to Chief Paige Burge, the FCC recognizes five public safety access points across Greene County.
“Of those, only three receive funding,” Burge said.
The funding consists of fees the FCC collects from telephone service providers for 911 calls. In 2018, Ohio passed a law incentivizing counties to consolidate their dispatch centers, penalizing counties that recognize more than three primary PSAPs.
“There would be a 15% penalty,” Salmerón said, acknowledging that the joint dispatch would likely not receive 911 fees from the county.
Burge added that even with the lack of FCC funding, the joint venture would result in cost savings for the three municipalities. She did not say how much the Village would save individually.
“Even without the fees, the municipalities will save $45,000,” Burge said. “The short term goal is to be able to handle the dispatch.”
• Council unanimously approved the rezoning of 144 Cliff Street from industrial to a planned unit development, or PUD. Rezoning the property will allow for multiple uses.
• Council heard a first reading of an ordinance including a preliminary plan to rezone 108 Cliff Street from industrial to PUD. The property, owned by Massie Creek Ventures, is slated to be the future home of the Lumber Yard Eatery. If Council approves the zoning change, the plan will go back to Planning Commission for a final review.
• Council heard a first reading of an ordinance that would amend the Village’s personnel policy manual as part of a directive from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission following a complaint from a former Village employee. The changes to the manual include clear steps on how to file a grievance and what to do if the grievance is against the Village Manager. Council will hear a second reading on the matter at their Monday, July 17 meeting.
• Council approved a resolution to grant $5,300 to Village Artisans Collective for their Art On The Lawn event, which will be held on Aug. 12. According to Council documentation, $1,200 will be returned to the Village to pay for the cost of setting up and removing street barricades.