(Posted Aug. 8, 2019)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Fellows Avenue residents say they’ve been left in the dark regarding construction work outside their homes.
The village of West Jefferson started infrastructure improvements on Fellows Avenue and Walnut Street shortly after school let out this spring. The work includes road and storm sewer improvements and installation of new sidewalks, curbs and gutters.
Paula Bollinger was among several Fellows Avenue residents who attended the Aug. 5 village council meeting to express disappointment in the village’s lack of communication about the project.
“We didn’t know what was happening in front of our homes,” she said, suggesting that the village should have informed residents in advance about what the project would entail and what to expect.
Bollinger said advance notice could have included information about parking and estimated start and finish dates for the project. It also would have given families with young children more time to plan, such as how to safely get to nearby Garrette Park, she said.
Bollinger added that she and others in the area have been left to guess the meaning of stakes and spray-painted arrows on or near their properties. She emphasized that she is always supportive of improvements but said information can reduce stress, anxiety and anger.
Allie Sylvis, another Fellows Avenue resident, said the village should have informed residents about what contractors to expect on their properties. She also said she has lost electricity and water service to her property without notice during the project. She said her neighbors received a boil alert from the village, but she only received a note after it was finished.
“I’m excited for the improvements, but there definitely have been some gaps in communication and the residents have felt that,” she said, adding that such gaps affect the public’s trust. She implored village leaders to put in place a comprehensive communication plan for future projects.
After hearing from Bollinger, Sylvis, and others, Steve Johnston, council president, stated, “I’m going to say I’m sorry.”
Council member Jen Warner said, “We will take this and learn from this.”
Warner also noted that all of the council members’ phone numbers are listed on the village website at www.westjeffersonohio.gov. She encouraged any resident with questions or concerns to call.
John Mitchell, director of public service, said the project originally was slated to wrap up before the start of school on Aug. 21. He said now they hope to finish before the Ox Roast festival, which takes place over Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
Several factors have caused delays, Mitchell said. Crews discovered old water lines that weren’t set to the correct depth, weather was an issue early on, and AEP and AT&T have been slow to replace poles, he said.
Mitchell said residents can call him at (614) 879-8655 or Brian Farley, public service supervisor, at (614) 379-5247 for more information about the project.
During the business portion of the meeting, council voted 4-3 against adding a Planned Unit Development (PUD) designation to the zoning code.
Tom Hale, director of the village’s new building, zoning and planning department, said PUDs allow developers to be more creative. They allow for a mix of residential options with some light commercial in the same development, Mitchell said. The designation also gives council more of a voice over things like aesthetics and setbacks, he added.
Council member Doug Eakins said he wasn’t sure about giving so much latitude. He also expressed concern about the possibility of high-density housing.
Eakins, Linda Hall, Jim King and Howard Wade Jr. voted against adding PUDs to the zoning code. Johnston, Mike Conway and Jen Warner voted for it.
In other action:
- Council approved the site plan and granted a landscaping variance for “Project Comet,” a 280,000 square-foot manufacturing facility to be built on 37 acres located at Walker Way and Commerce Parkway, between the Target and FedEx distribution centers. Construction is set to start within the next 45 days. The actual name of the company has not yet been made public.
- Council authorized the mayor and public service director to enter into an agreement to provide residential building inspection services to Madison County. Earlier this summer, the village signed agreements to provide building inspection services for the city of London and the village of Plain City.
“It’s a very lucrative revenue source,” Johnston said.
Council also passed several measures regarding staffing and contracted assistance for the building, zoning and planning department.
- Council approved a $3,000 donation to the West Jefferson Community Association in support of the Ox Roast.
- The mayor administered the oath of office to Maria Magana, the West Jefferson Police Department’s newest officer.