Next phase of Bexley streetscape plan proposed

With construction projects springing up all along Main Street, Bexley Development Director Bruce Langner is recommending that City Council approve the creation of a streetscape plan to further spruce up the neighborhood.

Langner presented council on Dec. 11 with a proposal from MSI designers for the organization of a committee that would eventually draft the streetscape plan.

That plan would provide guidance for the installation of such amenities as lighting, benches, planters and bus shelters, as well as parking and sidewalk improvements.

Some of the developers along Main have already made some of these improvements around their buildings, using Tax Increment Financing funds collected through increased property taxes, Langner explained.

Bexley could use some of those TIF funds to add to the streetscape between these projects, Langner said. Eleven projects along Main, with an investment of $36 million, are expected to generate $1.5 million in TIF funds for the city over 30 years.

The city receives about 13 percent of the property taxes, with the rest going to the school district.

This would be the third phase in the redevelopment of Main Street, Langner explained, that began with the adoption of Main Street design guidelines in 2002 and continued with a survey this year that mapped every element from Alum Creek to Gould Road.

MSI has proposed a fee of $59,200 for its services in shepherding the drafting of the streetscape plan.

Discussions would involve Bexley commission members and city staff, including the Tree and Public Gardens and Main Street Redevelopment commissions, as well as property owners and representatives of the city school district, Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary.

The city’s traffic engineer could also be involved to address issues involving vehicles, pedestrians and parking.

The final report would include cost estimates along with the design recommendations, to be presented to the Main Street Commission and City Council for approval.

Langner would like to see the plan completed by the end of the next year, to take advantage of the TIF funds that will start arriving in 2009.

He has $30,000 remaining from the funds designated for the street survey that will be transferred into the streetscape fund. And Langner will be looking into whether the TIF funds can be used for planning purposes as well as the hardware, to avoid taking money from the city’s general fund.

Cracking down

While Langner is looking for improvements along Main Street, David Hays, the city’s new code enforcement officer, is busy making sure that other properties are in good shape.

Hays reported that a recent inspection of properties on the north end of town yielded citations for 15 violations on Ruhl Avenue, 23 on Allegheny Avenue, 35 on Bellwood Street and 20 on Columbus Avenue.

Hays has also been scrutinizing properties on Dawson and Livingston avenues.

He has taken several cases to Franklin County Municipal Court to force homeowners to make the necessary repairs.

Hays said he has found most residents to be cooperative.

"They’re embarrassed to have me knock on their door, and they’re willing to fix it," Hays said.

About 15 to 20 percent of the violations are discovered due to complaints from neighbors, who can report possible code infractions anonymously, Hays noted.

People have even been stopping him on the street and offering tips when they see his vehicle with the new department logo.

While Hays is cracking down on building code violations, police Chief Larry Rinehart is looking for some help in stemming a rise in thefts, particularly on Chelsea Avenue.

Rinehart reported an increase in the number of break-ins of cars and garages, with 24 calls received recently from Chelsea households.

A large number of these have occurred after residents left their cars and garages unlocked, or kept valuables in sight inside vehicles, the chief said.

Making sure things are locked up and belongings are secured can prevent some of these crimes, he offered.

A block watch could be another crime-fighting tool, and Rinehart said the department would support the effort if someone is willing to volunteer to be the watch captain.

The chief is also asking council to accept a $28,634 grant from the Franklin County 9-1-1 Wireless

Fund for a computer mapping system that would show the exact location when emergency calls are received.

Bexley is one of the last communities in  Franklin County without this system, the chief said. The upgrade would be performed through a contract with AT&T.

Bexley would have to appropriate the money up front, and then would be reimbursed.

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