Planning Commission needs resident input
Last night we attended a planning commission meeting for admittedly the first time. We saw a lot of familiar faces, but we met a lot of new people. There is a lot going on downtown surrounding the Loveland Station development that most residents probably don’t know about. We need residents to get involved and to become educated on how this project will affect the city for the next few decades.
There is a proposed Special Planning District (SPD) that encompasses the Loveland Station site that I believe most people are aware of, but the SPD also includes a block cornered by Third, O Bannon and East Loveland Avenue. That’s where controversy starts to enter the proposal. I do not personally live in Loveland proper, but we care about the city and the people. We saw a lot of people who are very passionate about their neighborhood and the possibility that it could negatively change forever.
The city has been working hard to bring some progress to the downtown area, striving to keep the character yet bring new businesses and people into the area. They have been working with one developer in particular who has a heavily residential bent for Loveland Station. The council is trying to make sure a strong retail vision, no matter who eventually develops the site. There have been many studies performed, including a traffic & a parking study. I’m not sure why we needed a study, you can just be downtown at 5PM or try to find a spot on a Saturday afternoon or during a downtown event. The parking is much better since Loveland Station was paved, but we do not in my opinion have a plethora of parking choices.
The city has a stated plan of trying to increase the business opportunities and that is an awesome proposition to help grow our town. We just wonder whether high density apartments is the approach to take. We have a lot of residents that already do not know what businesses already exist downtown. We have some wonderful places that would only benefit from having other reasons and places for people to come downtown and stay for a while. We would like to see the city try to bring in several companies that are looking to establish or enhance their corporate culture around all of the natural wonders we have here in Loveland, the trail, the river, etc. We realize that is a lot of work, but the decisions we make here will affect the area for decades.
Back to the meeting. We heard from many residents and businesses from Downtown. We even had a few Council members who represented themselves as citizens, since this type of meeting is the only way they could make their voices heard clearly. A lot of business men and women are very excited about the opportunities the apartments suggested by the developer would bring. They are excited that the retail space will add to the available space to build up the core reason for others to come downtown. We heard from several residents, many who were upset because the new apartments on East Loveland and Third Street, because they have lived there for decades and they have serious concerns for their quality of life and the destruction of the character of their neighborhood. Most of the dissenters are very concerned about parking in the area. These residents already have trouble during events securing a space near their homes. If you increase the resident density, will parking get even worse? Many of the current residents feel so.
The developer has run studies concerning the density for the area and he remarked that most apartment businesses will not get involved with a new project if they cannot get at least 100 units, because of the cost of on site leasing offices and maintenance operations. This makes a lot of sense and is a valid concern for that business. During the meeting, we heard from several others who were either developers or were involved in similar developments in the past. It was discussed that the developer has estimated that the target dweller would be young professionals that might work 10-15 minutes away from downtown. The estimated density for parking is only 1 space per bedroom. A lot of people at the meeting felt this was unreasonable, that couples would obviously both have cars and that the density of over a hundred new units would crush any available parking downtown. There also was concern for the first Loveland Church, currently vacant, but purchased by the developer to tear it down for a parking lot to replace some spaces covered by the new apartment building. The realtor who represented the church was present and said there was no interest in the church property. There were several residents present that said many churches have asked them what the status of the property was because they might be very interested in it.
There is a lot of discussion that still needs to take place on this project. We need residents of Loveland to get involved and to attend these meetings. The next meeting to discuss this matter is Tuesday August 9, at 7PM. We feel like many people at the meeting were surprised by the lack of open announcement of such an important decision for the future of Loveland. It is a bit difficult to find on the LovelandOH.com site, but it is there. It was announced in the newspaper, but the title was not very descriptive. One gentleman who is considering a run for council was shocked that he knew nothing about the meeting until that day.
We would like to encourage anyone who has serious opinion or insight into the concerns and difficulties we are facing to attend these meetings and to make your voices heard. We cannot stand by and then complain about decisions that were made if we had the opportunity to make changes. I want to stress that the members of this committee and the members of council I personally know are very interested in what you, the residents have to say about the Loveland Station Project! Please get involved and help the city move forward! I also want to acknowledge the hard work done by Assistant City Manager Gary Vidmar and Management Analyst Michelle Knowland who have devoted a lot of effort to this task!