City Council is on a two week break for the Fourth of July Holiday, a good time to catch up. Here’s some additional perspective on some issues City Council has considered and will be working on for the rest of the year.
Downtown Development, Phase 2. At Planning Commission June 26, the developer unveiled a concept plan with reduced office space, over 200 housing units, and a possible hotel. I’m not impressed with what I’ve seen; nothing has been formally presented for City Council, and these are related, in my opinion. Hudson is laying out taxpayer funds to assemble these properties, and will undoubtedly be asked to pony up more as roads and possible parking structures are required. Council had some income tax revenues calculated into this spending, but all of this seems to be immaterial to these plans. We can’t say we want to maximize valuable downtown land by not locating city facilities there, and then propose some of the least generating options as the centerpiece.
Hudson leaves Community Block Grant Program. This is a program administered by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Read more here. HUD makes the rules, if cities choose to accept their grant money they must play by their rules. Their rules have changed a great deal since we joined in 1993. HUD now considers stormwater mitigation, landscaping buffers and sidewalks to be “barriers to affordable housing” that must be overcome. Summit County administers the HUD plan. The risk is the County and HUD could get us to change our standards to accommodate low income housing. The benefits lost are less than $50,000 a year, utilized by an average of 10 households in the past five years. The rest of the social benefits that Hudson and the County would lose by our leaving (we voted 4-3 to leave on June 20) are greatly overstated, to be polite. There are other programs that address addiction, senior care, veterans, etc. more effectively than HUD.
Relocation of City office to Terex Road PASCO site. This is the most economical route to accommodate our city offices over building new. Some would prefer a downtown location, but land is too expensive there (unless you are building a taxpayer-subsidized apartment or hotel, apparently.)
Broadband. You may have City Council recently approved plans to consider offering Velocity Broadband to businesses outside of Hudson but near our border. My concern was that we get some kind of income tax sharing if we are adding value to property outside of Hudson. City Council has committed millions upfront to Velocity as a business enhancement, neither these businesses nor their respective cities contributed to that upfront funding. You did not read that Council turned down a proposal to expand Velocity to “home based businesses.” My objection to the home based expansion is that it is a backdoor plan to offer residential service. I’m against residential service at this time because our limited Velocity footprint means only residents in the old village area would get the service for many years. I said a few years ago in the is column, and it bears repeating: for the foreseeable future, and without a significant outlay of more public funding, you stand a better chance to get broadband if you are Boston Heights business than a Hudson resident living outside the village limits.
Medical Marijuana facilities in Hudson. Don’t get too worked up over this. City Council already made a decision. All we will get from hearings is political and moral posturing, a few interesting sound bytes or quotes. Some will want to argue the merits of weed good or bad. Ohio has already decided this, medical marijuana is legal, nothing Hudson City Council or the Planning Commission can do will change this. Council is allowed to decide whether or not they want grow facilities or retail locations (dispensaries) in town. We have a moratorium on granting permits until 1/1/2018. By January 2018 the interested parties will have secured locations and been granted licenses by the State of Ohio; they have to be operational by Sept. 2018. Even if Council somehow reverses three previous votes and decides to allow the marijuana business in Hudson, it will be moot.
Credit where credit is due on one Akron Water problem. There are many facets to the ongoing dispute between the cities of Akron and Hudson over the water service Akron provides to some sections of Hudson. While the largest issue, the rates Akron charges, is still unresolved, there was one small recent victory to note. Many individuals and neighborhoods are unfortunately “collateral damage” in the dispute when it comes to neglected repairs and service, and the St. Andrews area was one of them. Read more here. Many residents came to a Council meeting and made us aware of their almost weekly problems with line breaks and fire hydrants that have been out of service for years. As a result, the respective attorneys met and allowed the respective service personnel to fix the broken hydrants and take steps to fix the ongoing line breaks. Kudos to Hudson City staff for responding, for Akron for cooperating and starting repairs and for the neighbors who politely but forcefully articulated their case.
Council Elections this fall. Three City Council seats at large are up. So far no one new has decided to run. Some may read this as a sign that everyone’s pleased with the direction of City government. I’m too close to it to be able to tell. But I do think some new faces, some fresh perspectives would be good.