Efforts to simplify building heights rule get complicated

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Efforts to simplify the city’s building height limits became quite complicated Wednesday evening. With a split vote, Bowling Green Planning Commission took action to simplify the city’s building height requirements. The change maintains the maximum height limitations in all zoning categories – but eliminates the maximum story limitations. The change is intended to alleviate some confusion caused by the city’s current zoning rules which pose limits on the number of stories and the height of buildings, explained Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler. But the effort was met by opposition from some residents who felt more protected by the dual rule. The planning commission also faced criticism from a city resident who found information on the proposed zoning change inaccessible to the public. Jeanne Langendorfer said she was interested in the ordinance change, so tried to find information about it on the city’s website. Langendorfer said the website did not show the proposed amendment and did not list the members of the planning commission. She was able to locate meeting minutes from the commission – however, the most recent minutes posted were from 2014. “I would hope that could be addressed,” she said. “It’s not very helpful as a citizen to see something of interest, but not be able to get any information about it.” The building heights issue came up earlier this year when a Hilton hotel was proposed at the site of the former Victory Inn at 1630 E. Wooster St. The proposed hotel was 65 feet tall, which is five feet taller than allowed, and five stories high, which is one story higher than allowed in B-2 general commercial zoning. The proposed change in the zoning language would allow a hotel to have five floors, as long as the height of the building did not exceed 60 feet. The modified zoning language could prevent such confusion in the future, Sayler said. Sayler stressed that the change would maintain the current building heights and be easier to enforce. The cities…


Small housing subdivision plan approved in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Planning Commission approved plans Wednesday evening for a small housing subdivision east of Peace Lutheran Church. The seven-lot subdivision will sit on the 3.5 acres between Pearl, Martindale and West Wooster streets. The backside of the development borders the homes on Western Avenue. The property, owned by David Maurer, will be called the Reserve at Martindale. The plan is to develop the subdivision in two stages, with the three lots along Pearl Street going first. The owner, represented by Dave Saneholtz of Poggemeyer Design Group, requested several waivers of subdivision rules and regulations. They were: Reduction of the 35-foot front yard setback to 25 feet. City Planning Director Heather Sayler said this was acceptable since many homes in that area have the small setbacks. In lieu of rear or side yard easements, the owner offered easements along the public right-of-way. Sayler said that was satisfactory. Delay of the waterline installation along Martindale Road until the lots along that road are created. Fire Chief Tom Sanderson said that was acceptable. Waiver from improving the existing street to the centerline. Avoidance of putting in sidewalks along the development since many streets in that area lack sidewalks. The sidewalks waiver request was the only one that met with opposition from city officials. “We do not support that,” Sayler said, explaining that bit by bit, the city has been trying to install sidewalks in residential areas. “We’ve been working hard to get sidewalks in wherever we can.” Sidewalks improve the walkability of neighborhoods and are there “for the benefit of the whole community,” Sayler said. The city now requires them with all new residential construction. Planning Commission member Judy Ennis supported sidewalks as a necessary safety feature. “We’re strongly in favor of sidewalks.” Saneholtz pointed out that while sidewalks exist on the south side of Pearl Street, they have not been installed on the north side in that area. And sidewalks are already located on the north side of West Wooster, but not the…


Failing septic systems in county estimated at 6,000

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As many as 6,000 failing septic systems in Wood County are sending sewage into public waterways. That estimate is based on the fact that there are approximately 12,000 septic systems operating in the county, with the average life expectancy of the systems at 30 years, according to Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey and Environmental Division Director Lana Glore. Because aging and failing septic systems are a problem statewide, the Ohio Department of Health has suggested that local health departments examine every system. “They want all septic systems to be looked at,” Glore told the Wood County Commissioners Tuesday during a meeting on septic systems in the county. Though admirable, the plan is quite “grandiose,” Batey said, explaining that the Wood County Health Division can’t meet that goal unless they go on a hiring spree. “The state’s expectation that we check every system in the next five years – that’s just not feasible,” he said. The Wood County Health Division already has a septic system operation and maintenance plan, but it is on a much smaller level, Glore said. Inspections of systems are complaint-driven or prompted by real estate sales. The health division works with the county building inspection office on preventing problems by determining the best locations for septic systems and making sure space is left for replacement systems. The health division also partners with the county engineer’s office to help map out systems using GIS. “We’re working toward better use of technology,” Batey said. The health division also works with landowners to find the most reasonable solutions. “Our idea is always to work with the owners and give them the best options,” Glore said. “Our first goal is always working with homeowners and property owners.” While sanitary sewers are being extended to more rural areas of the county, there are still many areas years away from that option. Health district officials realize there are many older septic systems that were installed without permits and have never been inspected. “A lot…


BG residents and bicyclists clash over plans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There was a head-on collision Monday evening between city residents who want to safely bicycle in town, and city residents who want to hang on to their front yards and street parking. John Zanfardino, of City Council’s Transportation and Safety Committee, set the scene by explaining the long-awaited goal of creating bike routes in the city. “Everywhere I visit has bike lanes,” he said. “It seems to me a progressive concept we should consider.” The consultants working with Bowling Green on a community action plan asked about bike lanes during their initial visit to the city, according to council member Daniel Gordon. “The very first thing they noticed when they came to Bowling Green was a lack of bike lanes,” he said. “This is a national movement,” said council member Sandy Rowland. But plans to modify the first two streets for bikes met roadblocks Monday evening from neighbors who felt their concerns were being ignored. When City Engineer Jason Sisco presented the plan to widen sidewalks on the east side of Fairview to accommodate bikes, the neighbors asked why the bike lane wasn’t being placed on the west side along the golf course owned by the city. “Yeah,” several in the audience said loudly. Sisco said city officials had been worried about putting bicyclists too close to stray golf balls, but he added “there’s nothing that says it couldn’t be on the west side.” When given a chance to take the podium, several Fairview Avenue residents defended their front yards, and several Conneaut Avenue residents stood up for their street parking. “If you put a path in my yard on Fairview, you will be able to knock on my side door,” Faith Olson said. “That’s not fair to me as a long-time resident of Bowling Green.” Olson said she understood the frustration of bicyclists waiting from some accommodations in the city. “I understand you’re tired of talking, but you need to consider people on those streets.” One of those people is Francine…


Council doesn’t want to be kept in dark on solar project

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials don’t want to darken the bright future of massive solar field being built on city property, but Council members demanded answers Monday evening to some troubling questions on the project. Concerns have been raised about the percentage of Ohio workers used on the site and the fact that they are not being paid prevailing wages. Council President Mike Aspacher said he received an email from an AMP official in early September saying that prevailing wages would be paid to workers on the project. However, since then it has been reported that is not the case. “There’s some conflicting information,” Aspacher said. Council member Bruce Jeffers also expressed his frustration. “I assumed throughout this project that people would be paid prevailing wage.” The issue is complicated by the fact that Bowling Green owns the property for the solar field at the corner of Carter and Newton roads, northeast of the city. But the solar field is an AMP project, which has contracted with NextEra, which has contracted with Blattner Energy. Bowling Green Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said the city is hosting the solar field and buying energy from it, but not directly connected to the construction. “We’re somewhat removed from the construction,” he said. Neither the agreement with AMP nor the tax abatement granted to NextEra require the prevailing wages be paid or that union labor be used. If the project were the city’s, that would be different, O’Connell said. “We do have a prevailing wage requirement.” But in this case, the city has no control over the wages paid on the project. But Aspacher was not satisfied. “The fact of the matter is it’s being built on Bowling Green property. So I think it’s a Bowling Green project.” The other issue is the workforce on the project. NextEra was granted a tax abatement by the county commissioners on the project on the condition that 80 percent of the labor used on the site would be from Ohio. O’Connell said…


Debate is over – green space to remain green

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s official. “Wooster Green” will remain a green gathering space for Bowling Green citizens for generations to come. After years of debate, City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to preserve the 1.7 acres at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets as green space. The vote was met with a round of applause from those in the council chambers. The action was welcomed by those who spent months planning out a concept for the community space. “I thought all along it would pass,” Eric Myers, who led the task force to come up with a plan for the property, said after Monday’s council meeting. “Hopefully we can continue the momentum for fundraising.” Mayor Dick Edwards, a supporter of the green space concept, said he plans to convene the Green Space Task Force on Oct. 11 to discuss the next steps. The resolution states the property, formerly the site of the city junior high, is to be developed in consideration of the concept design prepared by the Green Space Task Force. “It’s finally happening tonight,” Council member Sandy Rowland said. “It’s been a great journey. That property has just been waiting” to become a community gathering space. “I’m supporting this with all my soul and my heart,” she said. “I knew I would support this since the junior high was torn down.” Rowland said the new community space will help attract families to live in Bowling Green. “We will have a fabulous public space.” The task force’s plan was originally presented to city council nearly a year ago. But the plan seemed to stall out at that point, and council decided to do further study on the site in case a new city building could share the property with a community green space. Though the study showed it was possible to combine both a new city building and green space on the acreage, public pressure came from citizens who wanted the site to remain undeveloped, except for a few town square…


BG rejects moratorium on medical marijuana

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council split 4-3 Monday evening on enacting a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana cultivation, processing and retail dispensary facilities. So despite a request from the city attorney and city planner, the moratorium was scrapped. Council members Daniel Gordon, Bruce Jeffers, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino voted against the moratorium, while Mike Aspacher, Bob McOmber and Scott Seeliger voted in favor. After the meeting, City Planner Heather Sayler said her office has received two phone calls from prospective medical marijuana representatives asking where they would be allowed to do business in the city. As it is now, a retail operation could go in commercial zoned areas, a processing operation could go in industrial, and growing could occur in agricultural zoned areas. The state legislature passed the medical marijuana bill earlier this year, making Ohio the 25th state to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes. But few community regulations have been established, so several municipalities are enacting temporary moratoriums on medical marijuana cultivation, processing and retail dispensary facilities. “We’ve been watching the state for weeks, waiting for some rules and regulations,” City Attorney Michael Marsh said last month when the issue first came before council. So “rather than have a free-for-all,” Marsh presented legislation asking that council put a hold on medical marijuana sales in the city until the state sets regulations. Marsh added that the city does not have qualified personnel to set regulations for growing, processing or selling pot. But Gordon said he was not willing to add further burden on ill people who could benefit from medical marijuana. On Monday evening, Gordon reaffirmed his opposition to a moratorium. “I continue to feel the legislation is unnecessary and counterproductive,” he said. Council President Mike Aspacher noted last month that Bowling Green applies rules to tattoo businesses, dance establishments and grocery stores. “I think it would be irresponsible,” to not do the same with marijuana, he said. Sayler said her office is waiting for some direction from the state. “It’s…


Clinton vows to stay true to blue collar Americans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Hillary Clinton made her pitch to the blue collar crowd in Toledo Monday – to people who pay their taxes and expect their elected officials to do the same. Clinton hit hard on the latest news that her opponent Donald Trump has likely not paid federal taxes for nearly two decades. She looked at her supporters gathered in the Amtrak station in downtown Toledo, and told them she understands them. “We believe in honest pay for honest work,” she said, mentioning her dad who printed drapery for a living. “He believed in hard work. He passed that on to me.” Those in the crowd appreciated her steady dedication to family and worker causes. Jennifer Rogers, of Toledo, said she likes how Clinton relies on her experience and her heart. “I think Hillary knows more about the world situation than any president we’ve ever had. I think the Republican party has done a real witch hunt and she’s stood her ground.” Larry Robinson, of Bowling Green, admitted he was not a huge Hillary fan. “I’m against Donald Trump,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t trust him to stick to his word.” So Clinton will likely win with Robinson by default. “When it comes time to vote, I’ll probably pull the lever for Hillary,” he said. Andrew Heller, of Toledo, had no doubts. “I think she’s obviously the only candidate qualified for the job.” He then looked at his two young daughters to explain another reason why he wouldn’t support Trump. “It’s despicable how he talks about women.” One speaker suggested it would be fitting for the Glass City to help Clinton shatter the “glass ceiling.” U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, joined in heaping praise onto Clinton. “No matter what gets thrown her way, she keeps chugging along,” Kaptur said. “She gets things done.” One of those things was very meaningful to Toledo, when Clinton voted to save the auto industry. Clinton talked about those tough times, when people were losing their jobs, their homes,…


Contemporary Art Toledo on a mission to get people thinking about art

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The glass on display at River House Arts gives a clear view of the mission of the newly launched Contemporary Art Toledo. The art on exhibit in HUSH.ex challenges what viewers may expect from an art medium so closely tied to Toledo. The works are more than beautiful objects, but provocations. Jessica Jane Julius intentionally “mars” some of her work, questioning the ideal of perfection. She also created long shimmering panels. Are these glass? Yes, glass-infused paint, normally used to paint stripes on runways. Amber Cowan’s milk glass pieces at first glance seem like they were retrieved from an old aunt’s estate. But they subvert that thought, teasing out the line between art and kitsch. And the work by Megan Biddle and Sharyn O’Mara tests the boundaries between drawing and glass. The work, which is on view through Nov.4, in the show “pushes the medium and pushes the history of glass,” said Brian Carpenter, one of the two founders of Contemporary Art Toledo. The show is the second sponsored by the nascent arts organization. The organization’s roots go back to when Carpenter and Paula Baldoni, the owner of River House Arts, were introduced about two years ago. They found they had similar thoughts about the regional arts scene. “We immediately started talking about artists,” Carpenter said. Both were interested in exposing local viewers to a different kind of work. Carpenter teaches and is gallery curator at the University of Toledo. Baldoni and her husband, William Jordan, founded River House Arts 12 years ago in Perrysburg. Early this year they brought their operation, which includes art leasing and sales, to the Secor building at 425 Jefferson St., in downtown Toledo. “For River House Arts, it came out of this acknowledgement that we were showing more statement shows, more works that were not commercially driven, conceptual work,” Baldoni said. Baldoni, who has presented shows at Owens Community College, worked with Carpenter on Where Light Goes, which looked at new directions in photography. They also collaborated on…


Jail inmate in hospital after beating in visitation area

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   An inmate at the Wood County jail is in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo after being beaten by another inmate last week in the visitation area of the jail. Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said Sunday afternoon that the two inmates were in the visitation area when one punched the other in the back of the head. “We got the victim medical attention immediately and are pressing felony charges against the inmate who beat him,” Wasylyshyn said. Operations Captain Terry James said this morning that Jesse Perez, 36, Toledo, and Franklin Socha, 26, Berea, were having a disagreement Thursday in the visitation area of the jail, when Perez allegedly punched Socha in the back of the head. James said Perez, who was in the jail for domestic violence, punched Socha “several” times. Socha, who was in the jail for felonious assault, was visiting with his mother at the time. Socha was taken to Wood County Hospital, then transferred to St. Vincent in Toledo. The hospital would not release his condition this morning. No jail staff was in the visitation area when the fight occurred, James said. That is not unusual, according to James, who said two deputies were monitoring the area from the room next door. “They saw it and called for backup,” James said. The staff was in the visitation room “very quickly,” James said after watching video of the incident. “I was pleased with how fast we were in there.” Felony assault charges against Perez will be presented to the grand jury on Wednesday. Almost all inmates at the Wood County Justice Center are permitted visitation. “All inmates, unless they are in discipline, are entitled to visitation,” Wasylyshyn said. The sheriff is hoping to change to video communication in the future, so the inmates stay in their jail areas, and their visitors communicate with them similar to Skype.  


‘Bobcat Basics’ to supply students with toiletries, school items

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Like many teachers, Erica Slough often sees students in her classroom who struggle with daily issues that most Bowling Green students don’t have to worry about. They don’t have the basic toiletries, clothing or school supplies they need. So Slough, a high school English teacher, came up with the Bobcat Basics program to provide supplies to students in need. “They do a good job of pretending to be OK. They don’t want to talk about it. But we see kids who are in need and we don’t have anywhere to turn to,” Slough said. “This is a much needed program.” It might be that their families can’t afford to keep supplies of shampoo, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, or notebooks. It may be the family has suffered a job loss, or a disaster such as a fire, or has a more ongoing crisis. “If they don’t have their basic needs met, how are they going to focus on academics?” Slough said. “They are thinking about survival. We want to help them out the best we can.” The plan is to supply the Bobcat Basics program by asking parents to donate items and by working with student organizations to collect donations from businesses. Student groups will also be in charge of keeping track of the inventory and making sure the program is stocked. “It’s set up for students to help students,” Slough said. But that is as far as the students and community will be involved, since the program must be discreet so students in need feel comfortable picking up items. “This is for the teenagers,” Slough said. Students will be approached by their guidance counselors, referred by their teachers, or questioned if they receive reduced cost lunches. “We do have a significant amount on that list,” she said. They will be called down to the Bobcat Basics room during study hall. “People get called down for different reasons all the time,” Slough said. The students can pick out the items that they need,…


Volunteer Guardians needed to advocate for adults

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Rocky Ramos and Denise Niese are buddies. When they talked Thursday morning, Niese reminded him she was bringing some Costco rotisserie chicken to his apartment for dinner. They talked about Ramos’ favorite sports teams. And he asked again about getting a “Hawaii 5-0” tattoo in honor of his favorite TV show. Though separated by several years, the two are tight. But they are more than friends. Niese is a Volunteer Guardian for Ramos. She is one of 20 volunteers in the county who work with a program established by the Wood County Probate Court to help adults who are unable to look out for themselves. The needs of the program are outgrowing the number of volunteers, according to Jennifer Robeson, office manager for the probate court. The Volunteer Guardian program pairs up volunteers with adults declared incompetent by the court. Many of the adults are referred to the court by local nursing homes, Adult Protective Services, Behavioral Connections or Wood Lane. Some of the older adults are no longer able to look out for their best interests and don’t have family members to help. Some of the younger adults have developmental disabilities and lack family to take the role. “They are mostly strangers,” Robeson said of the volunteers matched with adults in need. They range from teachers and nurses, to attorneys and retirees. The guardians represent the person, not the estate. “They are an advocate or a friend they wouldn’t have otherwise,” she explained. The guardians might have to give permission for medical procedures or be with the person at the end of their life. “On the other hand, they might take them to a movie or dinner,” Robeson said, explaining the wide range of needs. “The volunteers provide a quality of life to these people who wouldn’t have it otherwise,” Robeson said. “This is a fantastic reminder there are still great people in the world,” which is not something that is frequently seen by those working in the court system, she…


Zombie Mud Run planned on BG obstacle course

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green parks officials are looking at the “undead” as a way to breathe new life into park programming. The first BG Zombie Mud Run is being planned for Nov. 20 on the new obstacle course being built behind the community center on Newton Road. The plans for the event were explained to the Parks and Recreation Board earlier this week by Ivan Kovacevic, recreation coordinator. Participants will run through the 1.5-mile obstacle course wearing flag football belts. Along the route, they will encounter obstacles, mud and, of course, zombies. Kovacevic promised natural and man-made obstacles that the runners will have to hurdle, crawl through, climb over and run through – with plenty of water and mud along the way. And as the name implies, there will also be “zombies” along the course trying to pull the participants’ flags and “infect” them. To successfully finish the race, a runner must navigate through the obstacles and past the zombies to the finish line with at least one flag still intact. “If they make it, they survive. If not, they’re infected,” Kovacevic said. The zombie event may attract some teenage participants, who are hard to attract to park and recreation programs, he said. But the popularity of the “Walking Dead” and all-things zombie, may just be enough to draw in teenagers. Students with the DECA program at Bowling Green High School will be teaming up with the parks and rec department to help with the event. Revenue from the Zombie Mud Run will be directed toward further development of the new obstacle course trail and toward the BG Parks & Recreations Camps for Kids program, which helps subsidize programs for youth and families in need. Also at the park and recreation meeting, the board: Heard from board chairman Jeff Crawford that efforts are gearing up to promote the 2-mill park levy on the Nov. 8 ballot.. Voted to increase non-resident fees for one-day and multi-day camp programs for youth. City Council will review the…


BGSU sees slip in student retention rate

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   BGSU’s student retention rate slipped this fall, sending officials scrambling to find ways to help students stay at school. It’s not enough for Bowling Green State University to attract new students to come to school. The university has to keep them coming back for more – until they graduate. That’s because universities in Ohio no longer get state funding per student headcounts. Now they get paid if students return to school each year and earn diplomas. So the recent dip in returning students at BGSU was concerning Friday to the BGSU Board of Trustees. Last fall, the retention rate was 77.5 percent. This fall, the rate of returning students had dropped to 75.8 percent – creating a bigger gap between reality and the retention goal of 80 percent. “Obviously, we’re not satisfied,” said BGSU Provost Rodney Rogers. “The goal is 80 percent, so we will continue to work on that.” Retention rates dropped for on-campus students (78.4 to 76.5 percent) and for commuter students (67.9 to 64.7 percent.) Meanwhile, several other universities in Ohio were meeting their goals of 80 percent or higher retention rates, Rogers said. Rates at Ohio University, Ohio State University, Miami University and Kent State were all higher than BGSU, while the University of Toledo’s rate was lower. But Rogers assured that BGSU could achieve the higher rate. “That 80 percent is a very appropriate goal for us,” he said. BGSU Trustees President David Levey questioned how the university would meet the goal. “Everybody’s focused on retention and our numbers are slipping,” he said. “What are we going to do this year?” However, Trustee Dan Keller cautioned the board to not over-react to one slip in the retention rate. If the one-year blip turns into a trend, then it will be time to worry, he said. Rogers and Tom Gibson, vice president of student affairs and vice provost, explained that several efforts are already underway to improve the rate. “The two of them are taking this very, very…


Ice Arena investment skates by BGSU Trustees

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Six years ago, the Falcon hockey program was teetering on the edge of the BGSU budget chopping block. But today, the Bowling Green State University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to spend $2.7 million to keep the operation on ice. The money will pay for a new ice plant and replacement of the concrete floor under the main and auxiliary ice at the Ice Arena on Mercer Road. There was no debate about spending the money – with it being noted that the BGSU hockey team is ranked 14th in the nation this year. The concrete floor and ice plant are original to the Ice Arena, which was built in 1967. The facility saw its first upgrade in 1989 with expansion of the seating area, then in 2001 with some office and lounge space being added. In 2010, some roof, gutter, restroom, humidity and lighting changes were made, and later the parking lot and sound system were improved. There were upgrades to the locker rooms, concession area and awnings added out front. And this year, hockey fans will notice a new video score board in the arena. The ice plant and concrete will have to wait until next summer to be replaced, so the work doesn’t interrupt hockey season. Sheri Stoll, BGSU vice president of finance, stressed the need for the improvements. “Our operating costs will increase significantly” if the work isn’t done, she told the trustees. Though the university is prepared to pay for the projects, Stoll said donations are always welcome. “We’d be happy to accept any private donations for this,” she said. Also at Friday’s meeting, the BGSU Trustees approved $9.4 million in improvements to the East Campus and central electrical load centers. Stoll described the project as “mission critical.” The work will remain “invisible” to the public, but failure of the 60-year-old electrical load centers would be “extremely” bad, she said. Stoll said the state is expected to pay for $7.2 million of the project, $750,000 would come…