development

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Econ committee votes to start city onto a track that leads to a bad deal with NRI

Published September 18, 2018 by justicewg

The city council members on the economic development committee voted on Sept 17 to approve a resolution that supports the deal the school board is making with NRI, which might lead to more money for the schools, but at the cost of approving a deal with NRI that is bad for both the city and the schools. This deal is on a track that will be hard to stop, unless many residents of Grandview Heights speak up, and tell both the board and the council to stop being poor negotiators. With the pressure of public comments, both via email and in city council meetings, the citizens of this city can stop this poor deal, and work for something from a position of strength.

Details of the deal

The full story on the NRI deal is complex, I’m trying to give a short summary that might pass over parts that are important to get a full understanding. I will be posting as many documents and videos from the city as I can, in the future.

Mayor DeGraw was part of the Finance committee at the school (the closed, hand picked group that made major decisions on the school facility plan with no meeting notes or video being taken). The group was looking hard at ways to improve the poor deal the school made with NRI back at the start of the Yard development, but as the mayor told the group, the city and the school had no bargaining power, a slight revision in 2014 didn’t help the school much.

The mayor told the school board that there was only one possible way to get movement from NRI, that was the land south of Goodale near the Yard. There were problems with the ownership of the land (at the time of the finance meeting), and there are big issues with cleanup of the land from pollution, but it was the only way that the school might get a lever on changing the deals made with NRI.

The school board saw this as a green light to start a new negotiation with NRI, and in the first months of 2018, they pressed NRI to make a new deal. NRI, being some of the best deal makers in the Fortune 500, immediately saw this as a way to come out on top of a deal with the rubes on the school board.

NRI must have been fully aware that the school was throwing every bit of influence they possessed into the quest to build new school buildings, and they are now almost certain to fail in the November levy request. The only way the board can pull some respect out of their floundering is to make a deal that brings more money out of NRI. This was a setup that NRI used to make a terrible deal for both the board and the city.

What is wrong with the NRI deal?

Both council members Anthony Panzera and Steve Reynolds spoke at length before the econ committee about the bad position the city and school are placing themselves into. I will be posting video of their talks. A short summary:

The council is allowing itself to be leaned on by the school board, and is shortcutting the normal channels under which the city would review and approve deals like this.

There is no reason for linking the development of the south of Goodale area with a renegotiation of the TIF with NRI. The only reason this is happening is that NRI knows the board is desperate for something they can call a win. The only one winning is NRI.

A housing development with 400 new units is not the best use of the land, and the city can do better.

The school board has been talking lowering their tax rate if they get the NRI deal. First, this is pure fantasy, the board will just use excess money to tear down Stevenson and build a new middle school. And even if the board did cut taxes for residents property, the one entity that would get the biggest tax cut would be – NRI, the largest land owner in the city.

(UPDATE) The board is now officially saying “vote for the full tax levy in November, but we probably will not need all that money if the NRI deal goes through.

While the combined bond issue and operating levy on the November ballot as Issue 6 would still be needed, this agreement would likely enable the district to reduce the amount of taxes that are collected on the November ballot issue. – Andy Culp

Amazing. The board is now saying “pass our levy, but trust us to give some of the money back to you – maybe”. This is self sabotage, why will anyone now vote for taxes that the school says they might not need? I think the board is so sure the levy will fail that they are giving themselves an excuse for the failure.

What about the Comprehensive city planning committee?

There is a large group of residents who are in the middle of a comprehensive city plan, one that is supposed to set the direction the city will take in future development. That group is not finished, and is not scheduled to be done until sometime next year. The fast tracking of the south of Goodale development is a blow to the integrity of the process – it is the city telling all of those people who spent hours in meetings “sorry suckers, you just wasted your time, because we are going to do what we want, to heck with your plans”. This is the kind of action that generates cynicism in the community. This is what makes people say “I though Grandview was different, but I guess we have a city government that is the same as anywhere else”

Check back on this post often, I have lots more to post – city documents, video, etc. Until those updates, you can watch the video of the NRI deal discussion in the last council meeting, starting at the 1:04:30 point in the YT video.

(UPDATE 2)

Video of the Sept 17 full council meeting

All of the preceding discussion happened at the Econ committee meeting on the 17th, and was not recorded by the city. Immediately following that meeting there was a full council meeting, which was video recorded. The speeches given by school board members at this meeting are just carbon copies of the ones they gave to the committee, except for one from board member Brannon. The things she said about NRI needs to be listened to carefully.

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City council video 09/05/2018 meeting – Scooters, Green Space, School Board Taxes

Published September 6, 2018 by justicewg

The city of Grandview council meetings were video recorded and posted to YouTube since spring of 2017. The quality of the recordings have been all over the place – some OK, some totally unusable because of low volume and noise. I have been monitoring the city’s attempt to do a better job with council member Keeler, and for the first time, the council has gone to a more professional recording setup, with a camera operator tracking the conversations and working the sound levels.

This council meeting was the perfect time to get the video right, because of all the important issues that were on the agenda. Scooters, the Green Space ordinance, the school board negotiation over the TIF with NRI – all topical and of high interest to the community. I did some quick note taking of the action in the video, this is not a complete record, just the high points.

City council video 09/05/2018 meeting summary

6:25 Michel Martin talked about suicide prevention.

13:20 Tijs van Maasakkers was appointed to the BZA to fill a vacancy. He is an Assistant Professor in City and Regional Planning at Ohio State University

14:20 School board member Melissa Palmisciano said the board and the city administration have been in negotiation with NRI over the taxes received from the TIF in Grandview Yard. More later.

15:30 Jody Oster, a member of the group behind the Goodale Green Space initiative, spoke to the council. She objected to the fact that the council had not voted to approve the Mayor beginning the legal moves to block the Green Space ordinance. She though the mayor was not following the laws in appealing the ordinance before the county Board of Elections. President Kearns said there was an executive session at which the council “provided input to the city”, but no vote was held. Kearns said she doesn’t think the Mayor or the city attorney needs the vote from the council for pursuing the appeal. The Mayor said he acted because he felt the appeal was in the best interests of the city.

36:47 Mayors report. The “Invasion of the electric scooters” was talked about, the city had to tell the scooter companies they can’t drop them in the city without an agreement in place. The city is still in negotiation, but it sounded like the Mayor will require then to ride only on the street (no sidewalk rides), helmets, and no two up riding. The Mayor said that we will be following the city of Columbus in their rules, since we are so close.

38:05  5G data transmission poles being installed in the city. The Mayor said he would post a map on the city website (I don’t see a map, but this city blog post lists the locations)

51:30 City attorney Khouzam presented the Grandview city side of the debate over the Green Space initiative appeal. Council member Reynolds clarifies that the appeal is coming from the administration, the council has not voted on the issue. Some back and forth happens – watch this part of the video.

1:04:30 Resolution on renegotiation of the Grandview Yard TIF. The mayor talked about re-allocation of taxes to the school, also part of the issue is more development in the Grandview yard south area.

Council person Reynolds expressed his disappointment with making any agreement that would be tied to the development of the Grandview Yard south area as it has been presented thus far. The addition of 400 units of housing is not what he feels is the best use of the area, nor does he feel that the addition is that good for the school board. He didn’t think it is a good idea to plan to transfer money from the city to the school when the city will be looking for new money to do its own new construction.

He also mentioned that if some agreement with the school was made that could cut the tax rate, the one entity that would get the biggest break would be NRI and Grandview Yard. He doesn’t feel this is a good position for the city to enter into.

1:22:15 Anthony Panzera expressed opposition to the resolution. He doesn’t feel that the negotiation over the TIF should have any connection to the Grandview Yard south deal, and thinks the city is being pushed into it for the advantage of developers, not the citizens of the city.

1:23:10 Jessie Truett, school board president, gets up and walks out of the council chambers in the middle of an important debate, disturbing the council and blocking the video. If there is anyone still wondering why the city council and the school board don’t have a good relationship, dumb insults like this from Truett are just par for the course.

1:25:10 A visitor points out that the city is still deep into the city Comprehensive Planning process with the residents, but has not completed the work. Why is the city in a rush to make this GY south development planning all on its own, with no completed city plan? The mayor tries to say that a road south of Goodale has been in the plans for years, but that is not what is under discussion – hundreds of new residential units are on the table.

On the quality of the video – so much better, but still distracting sounds are in the background. Some of them might be impossible to stop – shuffling papers, thunks on the table. Some come from people in the room, because everyone is cramped into a small space right beside the camera. Some of the noise is from people talking in the hall outside the room – maybe some signs can help?

Why can’t the school board video record their meetings?

The city council is now perfecting their video recordings, after more than a year of posting them on YouTube. The school board has never made video recordings, and will never bring a camera into the room. There are supposed to be audio recordings somewhere – good luck finding them.

This was the response I got from Jessie Truett the last time I asked him to record meetings:

“Today’s meeting was not recorded and as in the past, we do not intend to record future work sessions. “ Jessie Truett

The school board doesn’t want to provide audio recordings, they don’t want your opinion, and they really don’t want you to see what they are doing in their meetings.

The Goodale Green Space Ballot Initiative

Published August 20, 2018 by justicewg

UPDATE: the BOE has tied in voting on the Green Space initiative. This will require the Ohio Secretary of State to cast the deciding vote at some time in the future. Keep up with the latest news on the initiative at the group’s website. (also read how BOE member Sinnott refused to to recuse himself, even though his law firm represented the property owner in question.)

UPDATE 2:  Secretary Husted broke the Board of Elections’ tie vote in favor of putting the Proposed Ordinance on the November 2018 ballot, read the post on the Join Grandview website.

https://joingrandview.com/

Mayor Ray DeGraw posted a letter on the city blog last week in which he announced the city would be opposing a voter initiative to change the Green Space rules on Goodale Ave, west of Grandview Ave. He says the petition to change the city ordinance was not following the rules allowing the planning commission to give their opinion, so the city will oppose the initiative in a Board of Election hearing on August 24th.

I contacted Jody Oster, a Grandview resident who is part of the group which created the petition to change the Green Space rules on Goodale. She provided me with a long list of reasons the group had come together to make this initiative, as well as the petition that was signed by almost 400 Grandview residents.

The following is a very brief TL:DR of the positions held by the city and the group behind the voter initiative change to Goodale Green space (not sure if they have a formal name). For the purposes of this post I will call them the Green Space Group, (GSG). I can’t say all of the following is accurate, because the facts are in dispute (and I might make some mistakes too – it is complex). After the short version, I will post the full reply by Jody Oster.

The short version of the Goodale Green Space dispute

In 1989, the city created a 100-foot Green Space Overlay District along Goodale Boulevard, stretching from Broadview Avenue to Wyandotte Road. One resident was opposed and sued, to settle the lawsuit the city bought his property.

According to the GSG, the city and the board of zoning have created a feeling of unwanted change to the city by approving too many large buildings that don’t fit the character of the surrounding buildings. This has caused an opinion among many that a voter initiative is needed to preserve the character on Goodale.

A property owner on Elmwood made two previous attempts to do a lot split and build a new house adjacent to the Green Space, but was denied after residents objected. A third attempt in April 2017 was approved after the owner threatened to sue the city. The GSG didn’t feel the Zoning Board allowed enough notice of this approval. The board also approved a building for the site that the GSG doesn’t think fits into the character of the neighborhood.

As a result of feeling that the city and the board are not willing to listen to resident complaints, the GSG was formed, which has created a citizen initiative to increase the size of the Green Space on Goodale. The required number of signatures were obtained, and the petition was sent to the city, which forwarded it to the BOE. However, the city feels that the actions to change the Green Space are not in line with the city charter or the proper procedures for going through the planning commission. The city will be opposing the initiative in a BOE hearing Friday, August 24, 2018 at 11AM at the Morse Road location.

If approved by the BOE, the Green Space change issue will appear on the November ballot. The GSG is confident this will happen.

The full reply from Jody Oster

This is the GSG position on the Goodale Green Space. I linked to a Pdf of the petition that was signed by enough residents to get on the ballot, the link is at the bottom. Following this, a short opinion from me.

(edit) The TVN has a story on the Green Space issue now.

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Current progress, Grandview Crossing

Published March 29, 2018 by justicewg
The dirt pile

The dirt pile

The development at the corner of Grandview Ave and 33 was originally projected to become a big box store anchored retail development, the 2006 plans were called “Grandview Station”. Opposition to the development by the city, and the downturn of the great recession, killed that first attempt.

We are now up to version two of the Wagenbrenner owned Grandview Crossing development (original plan in this 2016 story).

We are still years away from the start of construction, the long history of change in planning makes any prediction of the final form unreliable. This is the current dream.

The stats today

GC is now 52 acres, purchases from the railroad have expanded it some. The Grandview section is 16 acres, about 36 acres are in Columbus, which also must approve plans. Because Grandview will probably ask for more Mixed Urban, Multi-story plans than Columbus, we can probably set the tone for the entire development.

The project now is projecting 200K square feet of office, about 128K square feet of retail and restaurants, and about 1,178 residential units. The Grandview section is expected to include a hotel, a four-story, 240-unit senior-housing complex and three one-story retail/commercial buildings. An additional building might include 27 rental units above retail stores. Read the TVN story for more details of the current plans.

Implications for Grandview – more tax money from a hotel, retail stores, and residential housing. Because the senior living building will have no children, we have no reason to expect more kids attending Grandview schools (maybe a few from the 27 rental units).

Not mentioned in the TVN story – how did the developers get approval for residential buildings on top of the old dump site? Maybe the additional property bought from the railroad is the location of the housing (the Grandview section was not a waste dump, it was last occupied by a motel).

The location of the housing just yards away from a busy railroad track doesn’t make much sense to me. But then I couldn’t understand the appeal of the rental development behind the Lennox, and it appears to be thriving. I guess people just learn to adapt to the noise.

The entrance into the property from Grandview Avenue is still part of the plans. Read this story from 2015 with then council president Panzera’s take on the possibility of traffic problems cause by this entrance. In the time since this story, traffic has only gotten worse in that section of Grandview Ave. during rush hours. I’ll ask the council if there are any new plans for traffic control for this entrance.

A new traffic light on Grandview Ave

(Edit ) The April 2 city council meeting had some more discussion of the Grandview Crossing plans. Go to the minute 28 committee report by Panzera on the video. At around minute 34 he says that a traffic light south of the train tracks is the only way to make the new entrance to GC work. I don’t see how adding a traffic light is going to make an already slow section of the road get anything but slower.

City of Grandview Heights – Comprehensive Community Planning process

Published February 2, 2018 by justicewg

(update – the first city planning meeting is scheduled on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at the Shelter at Wyman Woods at 7:00 p.m.)

Presentation at Jan 16 meeting

The city of Grandview Heights is starting a comprehensive community planning process, it might seem familiar to those who have attended the school’s facility planning meetings, but the city planning meetings are much wider in scope. Commercial development, residential development, neighborhoods, pedestrian safety and walk-ability, city finance – the whole gamut of issues the city council must plan for are going to be up for public discussion.

This post will be a little confusing, because of the way the city posted the information on YouTube. The city council meeting with the presentation is in one video (above), the graphics on the screen behind the speaker are on another video.

10:00 start of presentation. If I heard right, Greg Dale was the man giving the presentation.

11:10 Discussed the work the council did at a workshop on Nov. 30 2017. There were photos of five whiteboards worth of discussion points from that meeting. The focus of that meeting was for the council to discuss the “forces and trends” on the community. Thirty trends were written down, and 24 of what were called priority issues.

12:20 Presenter stressed that the material on the board was a snapshot of one day of work from the council, and the forces and trends will be changed as the wider community is brought in to the process.

13:50 The guy doing the presentation said that the use of the word “zeitgeist” in the workshop was the first time he had heard that word used in 30 years of meetings. It is a perfectly cromulent word! He says the the planning process is not a set process, that there is an “art” to defining a community and its issues.

15:00 The zeitgeist slide attempted to highlight the different groups who need to work together – “new vs old Grandview”, young people vs retired, rich vs less rich (no poor people in Grandview). The council seemed to want to work to reconcile the differences in the city, and not shut out those who are normally left out. The question this slide brings up is, how do you get to parts of the community that are least willing to attend meetings? Young people are tough to reach.

16:20 Neighborhoods and build slide. Lots of issues with density and how to allow multi-family buildings while preserving old single family areas.

17:48 Public realm slide. Talking about traffic and walk-ability issues. Infrastructure and green space. They even wanted to discuss how autonomous vehicles will change parking in the city. (I’m with atrios on this, self driving cars are still 20 years away.)

18;50 Public services and facilities. There was a repeat of a line I heard from the Mayor, that as Grandview attracts more higher income people, they will be expecting more services, like a big recreation complex. Maybe, but the town is still small, and runs into funding issues that Grandview Yard taxes are probably not going to completely solve.

19:30 Resiliency. This one seemed like a good idea, but there are no simple solutions. Yes, the city should be able to roll with the punches that the future might bring, but that is sort of the opposite of setting a course for the future, and sticking to the plan.

Comment from the presentation guy “I have never felt more uncertain about the future than I am right now”. Great! Let’s plot a course to the future, while the deck of the ship is rolling all over the place!

22:15 Public Facilities and the public planning. This is where a lot of meetings to be held will converge with planning the buildings that are needed in the future. Too much here, read the slide. The thing that I got out of it was that the overall community planning might be one track of meetings that takes a whole year, but the meetings that are focused on facilities might be a separate track that splits off and has its own time line. The council and the Mayor are ready to build, and they want it soon.

From what the presenter says this night, the council is so ready to move into the facilities process that not only do they want a separate track, they don’t want to wait for any completion of the more general planning process. I think this is a big mistake.

First, splitting off facilities detracts from the focus of the more general process. The community only has a limited attention span, and ability to attend meetings. Splitting off into two tracks will make both less focused, and less attended.

Second, the general planning track graphic shows a bubble that says “Capital and Facilities recommendations ”, and that is AFTER the split of the facilities track? The implication is that there will be two different plans for the facilities, worked on by two different groups. That is way too confusing to explain to the community.

As much as the council is chomping at the bit to get to work on the facilities, I think the general planning track needs to get done with the recommendation phase before the facility track starts.

This is my own comment to the council on the issues of city facilities. Yes, we know that the police and the fire departments need better buildings. We got that back in the 90’s, when the city tried twice to pass levies, and failed. Don’t try to manipulate the process, don’t push too hard, because the public knows when they are being scammed. The school board is about to learn that lesson when their levies for a $50 million school fail big time. Don’t follow their lead.

Above all, make all parts of the process open for inspection (don’t use the T word, the board has made it toxic). Everything should be open for public attendance, everything recorded, videos made, posted up on the web.

Videos posted of meetings

The first large public meeting of the planning process on April 10 was posted to YT.

The Steering Committee is the sub-group that will manage the public meetings, they had a May 17 meeting and posted it on YT.

Winner of the tallest snowman in the city competition

Published January 16, 2018 by justicewg
8 ft tall snowman

I call it, Mt Freeze Megasnowman, the Comprehensive Community Driven Facility Finance Committee crusher

Years ago my kids and I built this 8 ft tall snowman. The city of Grandview Heights just ran a snowman competition, and didn’t specify the dates for the snowman building, it just had to be in this city. We won! We deserved it too, almost broke my back getting that second snowball up on top.

Congratulation to the kids who won in other categories. Just don’t try to top my snowman – no really, don’t try, it would be dangerous to do it. Make your dad build a bigger snowman!

Quick answers from council candidates – fall 2017

Published October 29, 2017 by justicewg

The five candidates for four council seats have been out knocking on doors and attending meetings to answer questions from the public. They are still open to questions from emails, here are a few that I thought had not been done in the past. Responses from the candidates are posted in the order they gave me their replies.

Come back to this post for updates, I will add new commentary to the front page as I read through the responses, and the full text of the answers from the politicians will be added after the jump.

Greta Kearns, current council member

Question about policy that has not been given enough thought – she mentioned a comprehensive community planning project, which has been talked about by other council members. I’m not sure that it is a missing topic for the average voter in the community, these planning sessions are generally boring and don’t really engage the attendees.

The issue is the same one that made the school facility planning session a dud, they asked the parents to attend days of sessions, get deep into the weeds on policy, but there was no payout for that work. The final vote on facility options was open to anyone, and easily hackable. And the board was clear that they can dump the recommendations and go their own way. I don’t have a solution for this problem, but I would like there to be an admission that a problem exists.

Medical Marijuana is a no for Kerns. She sites reasons that are similar to the Tobacco 21 and minor bike helmet legislation, if a drug is bad for kids (or a lack of a helmet), we should not allow it in Grandview.

Relationship with the School board. Kearns says there is no problem ( but since she is the the School Liaison, she would say that). The competition for property tax can be solved, according to her, if city can add all needed improvements without a tax increase. That will be quite a trick to build a new fire and police station (which she supports) without new taxes. She doesn’t see any way to share facilities with the school.

A funny things that happened on the way to office – I guess the resident who answered his door wearing only a toga and a cowboy hat was sort of funny. I guess you had to be there.

Chris Smith, council V.P.

Neglected issues – I like the discussion on public transport, as a metro area Columbus has neglected transportation for so long it gives us a negative image for any business looking to relocate to the area. Why would someone want to develop in a city that had no public transportation other than old buses and roads that are fast becoming constant traffic snarls? Unfortunately it is a regional problem that can’t be solved by Grandview city council.

Smith said that Medical Marijuana businesses would “probably not the wisest use for commercial property in the city.” And given that the city of Columbus will probably have no issues with the dispensaries, and the taxes they pay, there will not be a problem finding a near by dispensary. But if we have full access to Medical Marijuana, but chose to let someone else get all the tax money, does that really make sense?

Smith agrees that there are issues in communication between the city and the school board. He doesn’t have a solution other than “we need to work hard”. He did mention the re-negotiation with NRI at the Yard will allow the bonds to be paid quicker, allowing the schools to boost tax income sooner.

Smith did have a good story about a long rant from a resident during a door knock session. I would call it more poignant than funny. I guess nothing really funny can be expected from politicians.

More full answers from candidates will be added after the jump.

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