BG historic preservation efforts to focus on busting myths

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green officials are hoping the future of historic preservation efforts will be more fruitful than the past. The city has resurrected its plans to preserve historic structures in the community, and now has a five-person Historic Preservation Commission. The commission will work to debunk myths about historic preservation rules that doomed the first effort about five years ago. No, the city will not dictate the colors a house can be painted. Yes, the city will allow additions to historic buildings. Yes, historic structures – if no longer fit for preservation – can be torn down. Mayor Dick Edwards reintroduced plans for a commission last year to “preserve, promote, encourage and support the maintenance, use and reuse of historic buildings in the city.” In other words, it would help property owners who want to preserve historic structures. Some historic homes are losing the battle against time and rental transformation – such as in the area surrounding the Wood County Courthouse, Edwards said. “It’s very painful to watch some of these very beautiful historic homes becoming rental homes,” the mayor said. Historic preservation commission members Les Barber, Reina Calderon, Greg Halamay, Gail Nader and John Sampen. The commission members, who held their first meeting recently, are Les Barber representing the First Ward, Reina Calderon of the Second Ward, Gail Nader of the Third Ward, John Sampen of the Fourth Ward, and Greg Halamay representing the downtown. The proposal for such a commission was first brought up in 2009, then became part of earnest discussions in 2013. Efforts died in 2015 after some citizens interpreted the city’s preservation efforts as government telling them what to do with their properties. At that time, Edwards tried to explain that the commission was there to help – not give orders. “It’s not threatening, it’s not dictating to people, it’s not putting the heavy hand of government on neighborhoods,” he said. “It was misconstrued and misinterpreted by some individuals.” Nevertheless, suspicions and very vocal objections by a few citizens about the motivation for the historic preservation commission killed the effort. City Planning Director Heather Sayler said there is great value in preserving historic buildings in a community. “We really had some issues with the myths floating around the community,” Sayler said. “It’s definitely a hot topic. It’s an important topic.” This time around, the city and the commission members hope to do a better job of educating the public and calming fears. “Property owners don’t want to be told what to do with property,” said Halamay, who was elected chairperson of the commission. The goal of historic preservation is to protect the historic integrity of buildings – and help when possible with restorations. It is not to nitpick and tell homeowners what they can and cannot do with their properties. Barber agreed the education role is crucial. “Otherwise this is kind of a useless operation,” he said. Calderon suggested that the commission begin by creating an inventory of historic buildings in the community. Nader noted that a previously designed walking map of historic places in Bowling Green could be a starting point. “If we dust it off, we don’t have to start over,” she said. Three sites and two historic districts in Bowling Green are currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Secretary of the Interior upon recommendation of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. However, placement on the National Register provides no protection to any historic property. The commission talked about working with the county commissioners to see if they would be interested in dedicating…

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Project Connect begins hooking up volunteers & donations

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Project Connect Wood County is more than a one-day event. Project Connect provides direct services to people who are homeless or in poverty, or in danger of becoming homeless or in poverty. The benefits accrue to the guests all year, and to the volunteers who make it happen. “It’s very gratifying. I see people in the store, and they ask if we’re doing this again,” said volunteer Marisa Hutchinson. She’s happy that she can answer yes. And she’ll be there to help out again. “Once you volunteer,” she said, “you start planning for the next year.” Planning for Project Connect gets started months in advance. About 30 people gathered for the kickoff meeting Thursday morning at St. Mark’s Church. The church will host Project Connect on Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Project Connect was started in 2013, launched by the Continuum of Care Wood County. It was spurred by concern about homelessness. But shelter insecurity has many dimensions. People also need food, sanitary products, mental health services, legal assistance, and haircuts. Rhonda Stoner, a social worker with the Wood County Community Health Center, said she was surprised to see the change in people after they’d gotten their hair cut. The guests reported just that made them feel so much better about themselves, she said. Last year project volunteers cut the hair of 118 guests. Those seeking help are not clients, they are guests, neighbors stopping over for a helping hand from other neighbors. “We approach everything from the aspect of hospitality,” said Erin Hachtel, one of the co-chairs for the event. Each guest first talks with someone to determine what they and their families “need to be healthy, safe and secure,” Hachtel said. Then they are assisted by a host who guides them through a maze of stations to help find just what they need most. What brings them in varies. Last year, the biggest need was help getting through the holidays, Hachtel noted. That was the first time this was mentioned. The survey of the top reason they came included seeking employment, desire for more education or training, stress management, legal assistance, mental health treatment, housing, and internet connectivity. By having hosts and guest navigate the event together, Hachtel said, “we’re saying we’re all in this together. Let’s walk together to find what will help you and your family.” In 2017, Project Connect helped 574 individuals from 278 households. More than 200 people volunteers and 52 providers and agencies set up shop. During the day 235 bags of food were distributed. Also 44 people had their vision checked and 84 received blood pressure and blood sugar screenings. More than 200 hygiene kits were distributed, and 110 people were able to get birth certificates. The ability to get their birth certificates “was extremely well received,” said co-chair Felicia Otte. “We hope they can get their needs met the day of the event,” Otte said. That includes wholesome meals through the six-hour event as well as childcare. But doing that takes a lot of volunteers the day of Project Connect and the weeks leading up to it. Service providers must be lined up. Donations solicited and collected. Susan Clanton, of United Way, said that coats for kids as well as in adult plus sizes are always needed as are gloves. Donations can be dropped off at The Fringe Thrift Store in the Woodland Mall or at the United Way Office in downtown Bowling Green. “Also,” added Hutchinson “pet food and supplies.” We don’t want them to get rid of their pets, she…

East Siders question self-inspections by landlords

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   East Side residents are worried that the city’s rental registry will bear similarities to the fox and the henhouse. Many homeowners on the campus side of the city have long wanted some type of inspection or registration program for rental housing. But the type of program being considered falls short of what East Siders had wanted. The rental registry proposed in the city’s new Community Action Plan calls for self-inspections by landlords. While that’s a good start, it doesn’t go far enough, the residents agreed during a meeting of their neighborhood association. “I don’t let my students grade themselves,” said Neocles Leontis, comparing the self-inspections to self-grading. An East Side resident questioned why self-inspections would be allowed. “Is it because the landlords have money and we don’t,” she asked. Leontis said that parents of college students often assume that rental units undergo fire inspections in Bowling Green. “They are absolutely shocked to learn the places they rent haven’t gone through fire inspections,” he said. “It’s not only about students. It’s about young families,” Leontis said. “Let’s do something before we have a tragedy in town.” If landlords are allowed to do their own inspections, it was suggested that at least a check-off box be included where landlords can identify if a rental unit has undergone a fire inspection. City Council member and East Side resident John Zanfardino agreed. “The registration is only going to be as good as the information on it,” he said. Zanfardino, plus council members Sandy Rowland and Bill Herald agreed the rental registration program may be the best the city can get. “I don’t see BG moving to inspections,” Zanfardino said. Renter satisfaction surveys are also being planned, Zanfardino said. While BGSU offers renter reviews, much of that focuses on apartment complexes, while this will focus on houses. The questions will focus on rental houses having inadequate heat and air conditioning, structural problems, and other issues. Due to a fear of retribution by landlords, specific addresses will not be published. In other business at the East Side meeting, Zanfardino reported on other priorities selected by council members in the Community Action Plan. Included are zoning changes along East Wooster Street, creation of micro-grants for neighborhoods, and formation of a historic preservation program. Elizabeth Burroughs, who tracks police blotter data on East Side issues reported on the latest numbers for items such as nuisance parties, noise and litter. Burroughs said the number of nuisance parties and noise complaints have dropped in the last few months. Litter, such as Taco Bell sauce packets and pizza boxes, are still a problem. Police Chief Tony Hetrick reported that police officers have not changed their practices. “We haven’t done anything different.” However, Hetrick said the police division is noticing some different trends. In the past, the busiest times for police were Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The busy times are now just Friday and Saturday, he said. “We’re still seeing a lot of house parties, but they’re not getting out of line,” the chief said. Police still visit homes where yards are cluttered with party trash. The residents are given 30 minutes to clean up. Hetrick said he is also continuing to call landlords about repeat problems. “He calls landlords on Monday morning, and I don’t think they enjoy those phone calls,” Rose Hess said. The neighbors also discussed the lawsuit filed against the city by landlord and attorney Maurice Thompson, of Columbus. The lawsuit claims that the city cannot legally limit the number of unrelated residents in a single residence to three. Five…

Another plat approved in Stone Ridge subdivision

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Stone Ridge subdivision, on the west edge of Bowling Green, is experiencing a growth spurt. The new homes will be maintained by a homeowners’ association – meaning no planting, mowing, mulching or shoveling by the homeowners. Last week, the city planning commission approved preliminary plans for Plat 8 with 26 new homes in the golf course development. The plans received unanimous approval, and will not need City Council’s blessing. Stone Ridge currently has 208 occupied residential homes, according to Bob Spitler, with the development. Nine new units are under construction, and 16 lots are available for sale. The growth at Stone Ridge comes on top of already healthy housing additions in Bowling Green this year. According to Planning Director Heather Sayler, the city has requests for 19 new single-family homes so far this year, compared to 14 at this time last year. This newest plat in Stone Ridge will consist of a new road called Winterwood Court, with 19 lots on 7.2 acres that will be included in a separate homeowners’ association which will maintain the yards, landscaping, snow removal for each lot, and the common area. There will also be five additional lots on the extension of Pine Valley Drive. The developer of the new lots is Stone Ridge Partners of Bowling Green Ltd. The builder for Winterwood is Tony Buff Custom Builders. The planning commission gave a waiver for Winterwood Court, which exceeded the length allowed for cul-de-sacs in the city. The extra length had already received approval from the city fire division. Dave Saneholtz, of Poggemeyer Design Group, explained that the 19 homes on Winterwood would be positioned using a “building envelope” on the lots. There will be no common walls, as in another section of Stone Ridge, where two homes share the walls between them. “We believe this will work out great,” Saneholtz said. “I’ve seen some of these in Perrysburg, and that’s where we’re losing some people to.” Also at last week’s city planning commission meeting, a public hearing was held on the rezoning of 0.3247 acres at 500 Sixth St. from M-1 light industrial to R-3 multiple-family residential with moderate density. The owners are William and Renee Trout. The Trouts plan to build two duplexes on the property, plus keep the single-family residence that is already located there. Some neighbors of the property, who live on Manville Road, raised concerns about the lack of parking already at the site, plus the frequent trash that goes unpicked up at the property. The Trouts said they have invested money in other homes in the area. They said parking spaces will be added to the site. The rezoning request will go to City Council next.

Students stand up against guns and for decent housing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Inspired by students across the nation, and empowered by their efforts in this community, six students took to the podium at Bowling Green City Council Monday evening. They were seeking two basic rights – decent affordable housing, and no gun violence in their schools. Aidan Hubbell-Staeble asked City Council to use its power to push the state legislature to pass legislation on guns – something that would provide real tangible solutions to stop gun violence in schools. “Enough is enough,” he said. One by one, the other students – Carlie Pritt, Zach Davis, Hannah Barnes, Connor Froelich and Alyson Baker – stood at the podium and read aloud the names of students killed by guns in schools, starting with those at Columbine. They ended with the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, then told City Council they would return at the next meeting to continue with the names of students killed since Newtown. “The students of Bowling Green High School and Bowling Green State University will continue to fight for this issue until we see change,” said Alyson Baker. Baker was one of the organizers of the local walkout in honor of the Parkland victims. More than 300 high school and middle school students joined the walkout. Council member Bruce Jeffers explained that the city is limited in any action it can take on firearms. “It’s pretty hard to sit and listen to all those people gone under those circumstances,” Jeffers said of the victims’ names read aloud. Council member Sandy Rowland praised the students for becoming part of the governmental process. She stressed that gun violence is not a political issue, but a life or death issue. “Thank you for coming out tonight and participating,” Rowland said to the students. Council member Daniel Gordon said the problem may be that local voices are not being heard at the state level. “They’re not quite listening to us,” he said. “I would like to think that our input matters.” Gordon also criticized those who have targeted the local students for organizing a walkout and rally. “There are a lot of people who have not been kind to you in the last few weeks,” he said. Council member John Zanfardino praised the walkout effort. “Students saying ‘enough is enough’ is as good thing,” Zanfardino said. Council will discuss the students’ request, he said. On the issue of housing, Hubbell-Staeble said he and his girlfriend had very few criteria when looking for a rental – it had to be affordable; it couldn’t share a wall with a noisy neighbor like a bar; and it needed a yard so they could get a dog. They went through dozens of rentals in the First and Second wards. “We were extremely discouraged,” Hubbell-Staeble said. They encountered housing with holes in the walls, mold in the bathrooms and broken windows patched with boards. “Bowling Green is seriously lacking affordable quality housing” for families and students, Hubbell-Staeble said. He talked about a former BGSU student who loved the Bowling Green community, but ended up moving to Maumee. “He couldn’t find quality housing” in Bowling Green, Hubbell-Staeble said. Hubbell-Staeble asked City Council to “take a good hard look at homes in Bowling Green.” (A story will follow soon on City Council’s plan to create some type of rental registry as suggested in the Community Action Plan.)

East Siders want to make most of city’s new action plan

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   East Siders want to know exactly how the new Community Action Plan will improve their neighborhoods. How will it help stem the steady decline of housing quality? How will it make landlords better maintain their rentals? Bowling Green City Council members Daniel Gordon and John Zanfardino held a meeting Tuesday evening for their constituents in Wards 1 and 2. The wards are on city’s East Side, which is the primary target of the new Community Action Plan. Many of the residents want to make the most of the plan – not settle for the easiest goals to achieve. Rose Hess objected to some city officials suggesting that the “low hanging fruit” of the very detailed plan be tackled first. She wanted that terminology banned from further discussions. “Let’s go for the high ones,” Hess said. Gordon agreed. “Let’s go as bold as we possibly can.” Those high hanging fruits include rental property certifications, help for homeowners sprucing up their East Side homes, efforts to make the East Side more appealing to families, and plans to make East Wooster more attractive to people entering town. The residents were curious about the proposed rental registration program. The landlord “self-certification” program falls short of rental inspections that some East Siders have sought for years. Both Gordon and Zanfardino said the self-certification process does not go as far as some residents had hoped. “Self-reporting is different than being inspected,” Zanfardino said. September Killy-Knight said the inspections are a matter of safety for renters. And John Roberts said the rental evaluations should not be voluntary. But both Gordon and Zanfardino also know the uphill battle the city has fought and lost in previous attempts to implement some type of rental inspection program. Gordon recalled efforts to license rentals in 1987, when his father was on City Council. Zanfardino said similar attempts were made again about 10 years ago. “Contentious doesn’t really capture it,” he said of opposition from landlords in the city. Though it may not be exactly what some residents want, the rental checklist may have a chance of moving forward, Zanfardino said. “To be honest, I think this has a real good shot,” he said. “I’m hoping the city makes a very comprehensive checklist that has some teeth.” Though the proposal calls for the self-evaluations of rentals to be voluntary, the teeth could rest in the fact that those properties may be listed on a website among others that have gone through the city checklist. Bowling Green State University currently has a website that lists rental properties, with information on the conditions of the units. But some East Siders suggested that the information on rentals go further – perhaps being posted on a central website and linked to other websites such as the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown BG, and the Chamber of Commerce. “Hit them where it hurts,” said BGSU student Ross Martin. Others suggested going one step further and exposing poor rental housing on social media. Taylor Harrison talked about the idea of photos being posted, with renters being asked to respond to “Does your apartment look like shit?” Some East Siders wanted specifics on how the CAP intended to help homeowners struggling to keep up their houses in declining neighborhoods. “How will it improve the housing stock so people want to live there,” Julie Broadwell asked. If help isn’t available, she worried that “entire blocks are going to flip” into rentals. Gordon and Zanfardino said the plan calls for a Community Development Corporation, which may assist homeowners, and rehab projects through Habitat…

Saturday series explains how to age in place

From OPTIMAL AGING INSTITUTE Bowling Green State University’s Optimal Aging Institute will present a Saturday morning series on Aging in Place, April 7, 21, and 28 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Wood County District Public Library. Participants will learn about universal design, preventing falls, no-cost/ low-cost ideas for modifications, safety checklist to evaluate your current home, zero-step entries, how to improve your lighting, bathroom/kitchen renovations, resale considerations, and more. Our moderator and chief presenter is Joy Potthoff, Ed.D, retired interior design educator and co-chair of the League of Women Voters BG Committee on Senior Concerns; she is assisted by Paula Davis, director of the BGSU Optimal Aging Institute. Program #1: Saturday, April 7, 10-11:30 a.m. In this first session, Dr. Potthoff will introduce universal design’s chief features, and participants will receive a checklist to identify problems in their own homes. Guest speaker Lauri R. Oakes, RN, MBA, Joint Replacement Nurse Navigator at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, will discuss how to keep your body healthy and strong to avoid falls – and how to keep our pets from sending us to the hospital! Program #2: Saturday, April 21, 10-11:30 a.m. (NOTE — NO program on April 14!) Dr. Potthoff is joined today by interior designer Sharon Gargasz; together they will discuss lighting, furniture, entries, and room modifications. Lisa Myers, LISW-S, Director of Social Services, Wood Co. Committee on Aging, will share options available for funding aging in place. Participants will also receive information from the National Council on Aging about reverse mortgages. Program #3: Saturday, April 28, 10-11:30 a.m. In this final segment, Dr. Potthoff will complete our discussion of home modifications. Joining her will be Bill Abbott from W H Abbott, Finish Carpenter/ Home Remodeling, and Al Green, Broker, A.A. Green Realty, who will answer your questions about remodeling for aging in place, and how that might affect your home in the real estate market. PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUESTED by April 4, for planning purposes; however, all are welcome. To register, go to bgsu.edu/oai. Questions? Please call the BGSU Optimal Aging Institute at 419-372-8244.