Bexley, Capital reviewing good neighbor agreement

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Bexley and Capital University officials are working out a "good neighbor" agreement for off-campus rental properties, a move prompted by the university’s request to turn senior condominiums on Astor Avenue into student housing.

A decision on the zoning request could come as soon as council’s next meeting, March 18.

The draft of the agreement was presented to City Council March 11 by City Attorney Lou Chodosh, who said he had received the document only a few hours earlier.

The document includes such provisions as requiring students in violation of the university code of conduct to perform community service in the off-campus areas, and allowing city code enforcement officers to inspect rental properties when they become vacant.

Negotiating the deal was suggested by attorney Don Plank, who is representing Capital in its request for a zoning variance on property at 2130 Astor Ave. that would allow the 30 two-bedroom units to be used for student apartments.

Plank has maintained that, legally, the variance is not needed, since the city’s Southwest Master Plan allows campus uses on the property.

Chodosh acknowledged that this point is a little fuzzy, since one map shows the lot within the campus area and another does not.

But Plank explained that Capital expects to be back before council on similar issues in the future, and wanted an agreement that would cover all of its off-campus holdings.

"Capital will be back, and they want to be able to say they complied with the agreement," Plank said.

Capital’s properties include three on College Avenue; seven on Euclaire Avenue; two on Francis Avenue; 10 on Sheridan Avenue; and four on Mound Street.

Objections to the variance for the Astor Avenue apartments have mostly come from residents of College and Sheridan avenues, who have warned that more noise and trash will be added to that already generated by student renters in their neighborhood.

Bexley Police Chief Larry Rinehart confirmed that the neighborhood around College and Sheridan has seen an inordinate number of complaints, with 426 calls for service last year. Other neighborhoods see an average of 50 calls a year.

He also reported that officers have been stepping up patrols near the campus, and he is working with Capital’s head of security to identify trouble spots.

He urged residents to report any problems. "You call, and we’ll come."

Chodosh commented during council’s zoning committee meeting that he and Mayor John Brennan decided that, after seeing the first draft of the agreement, "we needed to put teeth into this" before going forward.

Provisions that were added include expanding the area for community service to include the southwest neighborhood, where students could be required to pick up trash and make exterior repairs on buildings. The community service area is now limited to the campus.

The agreement would give the city code enforcement officers the right to inspect rental properties inside and outside when they become vacant, and to grant approval before they can be reoccupied.

The document also puts in writing Capital’s pledge to limit tenants on Astor Avenue to juniors and seniors with a 2.75 grade point average or above, with no more than two students per apartment.

The agreement also calls for regular meetings between Capital administrators and residents.

Councilman Jeff McClelland commented that much of what is in the agreement is common courtesy.

"A lot of the good neighbor agreement is stuff you should be doing anyway," McClelland said.

Another issue has been the restriction in place limiting tenants to ages 55 and older, part of the condominium association bylaws and separate from the zoning restrictions.

The owners of the condos have explained that they have been unable to sell their units with the age restriction in place, and Capital has been the only potential buyer.

Attorney Michael Schaffer, representing 11 occupants, pointed out that only six of the 30 units are occupied.

The agreement should give the city the assurance it needs that the property, under Capital’s management, will be well-run, Schaffer said. "I believe Capital has met you more than half-way."

Councilman Ben Kessler, chairman of zoning committee, asked that the ordinance granting the variance be tabled to allow officials and residents to review the "good neighbor" agreement.

Chodosh said he would need the document signed by Capital President Denvy Bowman by April 18 before he could present it to council for a vote.

The agreement will be discussed at the April 18 zoning committee meeting at 5:30 p.m., to be held in the Cassingham school complex’s community room, near the main entrance.

Copies of the draft agreement will be on Bexley’s web site, www.bexley.org, and will be available at City Hall. Residents can provide comments by email or in writing to council, but these should be received by 5 p.m., Friday, March 14, Chodosh said.

Residents will also be able to speak at the March 18 meeting

In other business:

•McClelland announced that the Jeffrey Mansion Commission will present its final report on recommendations for the property at council’s March 18 meeting.

•Councilman Rick Weber, chairman of the service committee, scheduled a meeting for April 2 at 6 p.m. in council chambers to discuss the city’s policy on sidewalk repairs. The city now pays for repairs, when it had previously assessed property owners for the work.

•Chodosh reported that an agreement is pending between L. Rider Brice and Jay Schottenstein, bidders for the city tree nursery property, to jointly develop 22 condominiums on this and adjacent properties.

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