(Posted Oct. 28, 2021)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
London hopes to land a $750,000 state grant to make improvements to Ward 3 on the city’s southeast side.
Working with the county, city leaders have started the process to apply for a neighborhood revitalization grant through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. One of the first steps is to gather community input. In mid-October, the city mailed surveys to Ward 3 residents, asking for their ideas for improving the neighborhood. The surveys are due back to the city by Nov. 5.
“This is an opportunity to focus on Ward 3 to make big improvements, and it’s a good sum of money,” said city council member Andy Hitt.
The purpose of the grant is to assist low- and moderate-income neighborhoods with revitalization. Typically, the grant funds four or five projects that benefit the entire neighborhood.
Among the types of projects the grant can fund are curbs and sidewalks, demolition, flood and drainage facilities, parking, street improvements, public utilities, sanitary sewer and water facilities, centers for people with handicaps, historic preservation, public rehabilitation, and parks and recreation facilities.
Amy Rees, the city’s administrative executive assistant, noted the grant can only be used for new parks designed for use by the neighborhood’s residents, therefore the funds could not be used for improvements at Merri Mac Park, an existing park in Ward 3 designed for citywide use. Other ineligible activities are large-scale, single-purpose projects, public services, planning, downtown programming, housing and government operations.
In addition to the survey asking for ideas, Ward 3 residents will have opportunities to voice their opinions at a series of meetings. The first meeting is scheduled for Nov. 20 at 10 a.m. at city hall, 20 S. Walnut St. Volunteer projects are another way the public can get involved.
“The more people we can get involved from the district, the better our chances are for getting the grant. They look at community involvement a lot,” said Rex Castle, London’s safety service director.
The application deadline is June 2022. Grant winners must complete projects between September 2022 and August 2024.
Anyone who would like more information about the CDBG grant program can contact Amy Rees at (740) 852-3243.
Lot coverages and variances
At their Oct. 21 meeting, council approved changes to city law, making it easier for property owners to get permits for additions such as in-ground pools, patios, and driveways. The changes focused on thresholds for lot coverages–the amount of space a property owner can cover with non-permeable structures.
With the previous limits on coverages, many residents had to seek variances because their projects would put them over the limit. Castle said that during his time as a city council member and as the current safety service director, he has never seen the city’s planning commission or board of zoning appeals deny a variance. So, to save residents time and money (a variance application costs $150), Castle recommended the city increase its coverage allowances.
City leaders looked at the allowances of similar municipalities. In the end, council approved what amounts to a 20 percent increase on average across all property types.
“People still have to get a building permit, but many now won’t have to get a variance,” Castle said.