City council, community members discuss residential neighborhood issues

Michael Milhim and Michael Milhim

Constituents of the 1st and 2nd Wards gathered to voice their concerns and collaborate on solutions to city issues at a meeting with city council members Tuesday, Sept. 15.

As a way to encourage civic engagement, city council members Daniel Gordon and John Zanfardino hold quarterly constituent meetings every season.

“(This) more engaged community … gives me hope,” said Zanfardino.

Many citizens from the Eastside Neighborhood group were in attendance because of the special concern about the area.

Zanfardino said that “(Bowling Green’s) housing stock has been stagnant or pretty much worsened.”

Daniel Gordon, representative for the ward that includes the University’s campus and a University alumnus, added “our eastside neighborhoods have declined over the last decade.”

Housing stock maintenance and improvement proved to be the idea on constituents’ minds, as it took up a majority of the meeting time. Last Tuesday the housing stock committee met before the city council meeting to talk about the process in which homeowners could be notified of a civil housing infraction.

A civil housing infraction is something about the outside of the home that presents a health danger to those on and around the property. Ten days after first notification, landlords are given a $500-per-day fine for neither reaching out to the city health department nor complying with the notification’s demands within the 10 days.

Data was presented to the council showing that 84 of 97 citizens complied with the notification, but Zanfardino said that “at first glance … people seem to be complying … but on further inspection the data is nebulous.”

One citizen brought up the idea of not only having exterior regulations on properties, but also interior regulations that would require licensing.

“Interior is a whole different battle,” said Zanfardino.

He and Gordon fought for interior home inspections around 2009, but were met with heavy resistance from citizens.

Another citizen, David Donnelly, was concerned with the city prosecutor’s leniency with infraction compliance periods and fines.

“Who represents us in court?” Donnelly asked.

Getting University administration involved in holding landlords responsible and possibly giving an incentive to those who are extra compliant – by way of an official university sponsorship – received the most support among both constituents and council members. Ohio State University’s Department of Off-Campus Student Affairs was the inspiration for the idea an OSU alumnus proposed.

Aside from housing stock concerns, an update was given about Ridge Park, touting that it had reached $70,000 in funding.