By Noell Wolfgram Evans
The first meeting of the “new” Greater Hilltop Area Commission took place on Aug. 8. The commission was back to full strength after the July appointment of four new members.
Chairman Jay McCallister started the meeting with a number of announcements concerning changes for the Hilltop and the commission itself.
McCallister reported that Columbus City Council had approved nearly $4 million in funding for the completion of the Camp Chase Trail and for Project Blueprint, the city-wide project that would redefine the sewer system.
All area commissions will also be undergoing a change in their election cycle to ensure that they more directly comply with legislation that governs city commissions.
“We need to create that same interval between when we have elections and when the new commissioners sit,” McCallister said.
He was speaking about the advice offered by city attorney Steve Dunbar to pattern the election cycle after the presidential elections.
To do this, the commission will now run its commission year from July 1 to Aug. 31. Elections will continue to be held on the fourth Tuesday in June with any appointed seats being filled in July. New commissioners though will not sit officially until Sept. 1. This change will necessitate a change to the commission bylaws, which will be addressed at the next Greater Hilltop Area Commission Government Legislation Meeting on Aug. 29.
City Building and Zoning
Tony Celebrezze, the assistant director, Department of Building and Zoning provided an overview of the services his department provides.
“We have a simple yet complex mission,” he explained, “to regulate use and make sure all of our buildings are safe.”
Celebrezze shared how the time periods for permitting and zoning approvals can vary based on the project, the complexity, and the agencies involved. He said that this process will speed up once they move to a completely electronic system. Right now though only some of the permits are available online.
He also shared some details on a current initiative the department is undertaking.
“The mayor has tasked us with looking at medical marijuana. The mayor is looking at it as an economic development piece and he’s asked our department to start to lay down the groundwork for what this looks like,” Calebreeze said.
During the recent statewide application process for a cultivation license there were 19 applicants (three specifically for the Hilltop) who wanted to grow within the city limits. Celebrezze believes that two or three of those might get an approval from the state. Franklin County as a whole is allocated five licenses.
Neighborhood Pride Week
Bruce Black of the City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods spoke to the commission and shared plans for Neighborhood Pride Week.
The department will be working with the Hilltop Worship Center at 2622 Sullivant Ave. to bring big changes to residents of an area bordered by West Broad Street, Sullivant Avenue, Burgess Avenue, and Hague Avenue.
Neighborhood Pride Week will take place Sept. 11-15 and will see a hyper-concentrated effort to provide the residents of the targeted area with a number of neighborhood improvement services. During this time, the city will sweep the streets, fill potholes, clean litter and graffiti, repair and replace lights, monitor speed, and provide other services.
Black said, “The success of the program is the connection with the residents.”
To his point, residents of the pride neighborhood can take advantage of free breakfasts and lunches each day of the week. There will also be various presentations and discussions on topics like city services and health and wellness.
Residents can also use the week to learn about and apply for a grant of up to $20,000 from the city to help bring their home to safety standards and improve it up to the code, Black said. The Home Safe and Sound program is available to residents in the pride neighborhood.
Green-up the Hilltop
Also at the meeting was a representative of Green Columbus who announced a new program that hopes to green-up the Hilltop.
Residents are invited to become a Tree Steward. Those who are interested can go to greencbus.org or attend a training session at the Hilltop Library, 511 S. Hague Ave. on Sept. 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.