The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Sep. 16, 2021

Council prepares CRA, parking measures

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Van Wert City Council prepared legislation to expand a Community Reinvestment Area in the Vision Park area and to amend downtown parking regulations, although neither ordinance is ready for passage without some further study and discussion.

City Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming uses a map of the city to show where a Community Reinvestment Area should be expanded. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

As part of his report to Council, Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming talked about the spec building that will be constructed in Vision Industrial Park in the near future and noted that developers of the project would likely seek a Community Investment Area abatement for the building. He noted that expanding the airport CRA map to include the northwest portion of the city — including Vision Park — would handle that eventuality, as well as any future projects there.

Council later unanimously voted to prepare an ordinance amending the airport CRA map to include the area in question. The ordinance will approved at a future meeting.

City Council also voted to prepare legislation related to changes in parking downtown requested by the Van Wert Forward downtown development stakeholders, although there will likely be more discussion of what exactly those changes will include before the measure is adopted.

Fourth Ward Councilman Andrew Davis abstained on the vote to prepare, noting he needs more information on exactly what impact those changes will have on downtown parking. While Council has held two “committee of the whole” meetings to discuss the issue with the Van Wert Forward group, which is spearheaded by the Van Wert County Foundation, there are still some on Council and in city government that aren’t completely on board with the idea of relaxing parking regulations.

City Auditor Martha Balyeat, who first mentioned she had worked downtown for 20 years when there were still a lot of retail businesses there, noted that parking was always a contentious issue for the Downtown Merchants Association of that time, something that could be a future problem if there aren’t some ways to control parking downtown when development is complete.

“I don’t see how you cannot have some sort of regulation on parking it you’re going to have all those empty buildings filled,” Balyeat said.

Davis said he is leery of what kind of investment city government will need to make in the future to maintain parking control in the downtown area, whether it be time limits, parking meters, or parking permits.

More discussion of the issue will likely be needed before a consensus is reached on how much control of downtown parking City Council is willing to give up in the interest of development.

During her report to Council, Balyeat noted that city income tax revenues are up nearly 14 percent to date this year, but cautioned that it is far from certain whether that percentage of increase will be sustainable in the future. The income tax totals are also an increase of 10 percent over 2019’s year-to-date revenue figures, according to Mayor Ken Markward.

“We are very unsure how this 14 percent is going to pan out for 2022,” Balyeat said of her and City Income Tax Administrator Jen Adams’ views on the increase.

The city auditor also talked about the city’s receiving in excess of $1 million dollars from the federal American Rescue Plan infrastructure program, but said it was a bit confusing at this point on what the money can be spent on. More information will be forthcoming.

During his report, Mayor Markward noted that a sample ballot for the November general election is now posted online at the Board of Elections website, including candidates for the City Charter Commission. He also noted that 104 vouchers have been used for the city’s Clean-up event in September, with more vouchers available to city residents from the utility office.

On the topic of the City Charter issue, Council discussed possible details of a public informational meeting on the issue before the start of early voting on October 5. Possible dates are September 29 or October 4, with a possible site for the meeting the First Federal Lecture Hall in the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio. More information will be forthcoming on where and when that meeting will be held.

Fleming also noted that he has seen a number of basketball hoops on city streets, and he will be working on identifying and eradicating them as traffic hazards.

“There is no sense in playing basketball on the streets,” the safety-service director said, adding that most of the hoops don’t seem to be in use at this point.

Law Director John Hatcher sought some guidance on how Council wished him to vote on upcoming opioid settlements, with Council giving him leeway to vote the way he feels will best benefit the city. Hatcher also talked about developing materials to help Van Wert police officers better understand the city’s code enforcement ordinance and when, and how, it should be enforced.

The law director noted that the VWPD doesn’t work with the ordinance all that much, so having more information would help eliminate confusion and allow them to more easily enforce the legislation.

Health-Service-Safety Committee Chair Bill Marshall also talked about code enforcement, with the problem of abandoned buildings remaining a serious problem. While Marshall noted that the Land Bank project eliminated a number of such buildings, there were still several structures remaining in the city for which owners are absent and the buildings left to decay.

“We have to find some way to get a hold of this problem,” he said, adding that many of the buildings are no longer salvageable. 

Marshall said he will work with Hatcher and other city officials to find a solution to the problem.

The next meeting of Van Wert City Council will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, September 27, in Council Chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building, 515. E. Main St.

POSTED: 09/14/21 at 1:06 am. FILED UNDER: News