Council approves resolution

SALEM – City council approved a resolution to support the NRP Group’s application to attempt to secure state tax credits to build a planned housing development on the east end, but by a 5-2 vote.

Councilman Clyde Brown and Councilwoman Cyndy Baronzzi Dickey both voted against the resolution Tuesday night.

“By doing this, we’re telling Columbus we’re behind this 100 percent,” Brown said. “I haven’t seen enough – this has been much too quick. From what I hear from people around town, they do not want this.”

Dickey, who represents the Fourth Ward residents near the site of the proposed development, said she voted the way her residents wanted her to vote.

“They don’t want me to outwardly support it,” she said.

She admitted they like the compromises that have been discussed for a buffer zone near the deadends at Oak, Kennedy, Edgewood and Tanglewood and the talk about establishing a conservation easement on the section of property closest to their properties. But in the end, they’re not happy about the housing development which would begin with apartments.

In November, the NRP Group proposed a three-phase housing development on a 67.7-acre parcel the company has an option to purchase on land bordered by East Pershing Street, Butcher Road and Cunningham Road within the city. The first phase calls for construction of an $18 million 120-unit walk-up apartment complex on the northeast corner of the property along Pershing and Butcher.

NRP requested that 6.9 acres of land just south of the East Pershing Street Extension to Butcher Road be rezoned from C-2 General Commercial to RA Multiple Family Residential, which is what the rest of the property is already zoned. In an effort to calm the fears of residents on the deadend streets, another rezoning was suggested for 14.3 acres about 400 feet east of the deadends from RA Multiple Family Residential to RS-2 Single Family Residential for a buffer zone.

The Salem City Planning Commission voted Monday in favor of two ordinances for the rezoning related to the project, but the ordinances have not come before council yet.

Councilman Dave Nestic stressed that the vote for the resolution extending support for the proposed residential development known as Salem Pointe simply enables NRP to gain some points for its application for tax credits.

He said it’s not the same as council giving the full go-ahead for the project. He said the resolution has no impact on the proposed rezoning requests and noted there’s no guarantee the company will secure the tax credits.

Councilman Brian Whitehill, who serves At Large, but lives in the Fourth Ward on Tanglewood Drive, said the primary themes expressed by residents during a Fourth Ward meeting about the housing complex was the stability of the property next to the deadends, the feasibility of connecting the deadend streets and potential development on Pershing Street.

He said the residents indicated they would much rather look at apartments than commercial development, that they don’t want their streets connected and they wanted the property next to theirs to be stable, which a conservation easement could provide.

When the resolution was brought up for a vote, Brown also voted against suspending council rules and statutory rules so the measure could pass with all three readings as an emergency. Dickey voted in favor, but said she did that to get it on the floor so it could be discussed.

Mayor John Berlin announced that he sent his own letter of support for the tax credits application for NRP for the Salem Pointe residential development project.

In other business, council approved an ordinance allowing the mayor to enter into the proposed memorandum of understanding with the Fraternal Order of Police Ohio Labor Council allowing for special assignments within the police department while still maintaining three shift lieutenants and three shift sergeants. The agreement will allow special assignment officers to accept a promotion in rank, if they are the high scorer, and not have to leave their special assignment.

Council also approved an ordinance to advertise for bids for contracts for gasoline, diesel, traffic paint and road salt to be used by the city for up to a year and an ordinance allowing the mayor to enter into agreement with the state regarding a revolving loan fund. Both ordinances are done routinely every year.

Assistant Law Director Tammie Riley Jones, filling in at the meeting for Law Director Brooke Zellers, gave the city some good news, noting the city will share in the nearly $13,000 recently secured in a drug forfeiture case handled by Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott when he was still with the Drug Enforcement Administration. The city will get a portion of the money, but the exact amount wasn’t known.

She also reported the city received a check totaling $11,464 from the settlement of a municipal class action lawsuit involving the herbicide/pesticide known as atrazine. Zellers had read online about the lawsuit last year, which was filed by another government against the company which produced the chemical because it contaminated that entity’s water system.

Zellers had asked Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart for some information regarding the level of atrazine in the city’s water system and submitted a claim on the city’s behalf. The local level was not a concern. The money will go to the utilities department.

Panezott attended the council meeting and introduced himself to those who don’t know him, saying he’s looking forward to working with them and helping to make the city a little safer.