City Council Notes, Elks Building Demolition, Dog Park, Beer Garden Fundraiser.

After five public hearings and numerous comments from Delaware city residents and county officials, Delaware City Council voted in favor of the County’s demolition request for the Elks Building, also known as the Hills house, at 110 N. Sandusky Street.

The vote was 6-1, with Vice Mayor George Hellinger the only opponent; he’d vowed previously that he would never support demolition.

Related: City Council again delays vote on Elks demolition, from July 30.

Fourth Ward Councilman Andrew Brush shares his reasons for supporting the demolition with the Council.

Fourth Ward Councilman Andrew Brush shares his reasons for supporting the demolition with the Council.

While there was no public discussion before this hearing, Fourth Ward Councilman Andrew Brush offered prepared remarks for several minutes prior to the vote.

He explained briefly the County’s rationale – that due to the County’s growth to almost three times the 1990 population, the current court system can no longer accommodate the judicial need.

“I believe the county government is committed to keeping the courts in downtown Delaware if at all possible, and they are seeking to demolish the Hills house to make way for a new courthouse,” he said.

If the Council opposed demolition, he argued, the downtown district would lose its courts and law offices, and likely much of the revitalization efforts that have taken effect since the mid-1990s – and the Elks Building would eventually be demolished due to neglect anyway.

“I’m as committed as anyone else you will meet to historic preservation, and that’s why I have to support the demolition of the Hills home,” said Brush, a six-year member of the city’s Historic Preservation Committee.

“A vote to save it is a vote against preserving our courthouse for future generations, and a vote against the viability of our downtown.”

“I think at this point there’s no reason for us not to approve the demolition of the Elks Building,” said Third Ward Councilman Joe DiGenova, adding that it was “a shame” that it was happening.

Vice Mayor Hellinger conceded that the measure would pass before the vote, saying “I’m sure that I’m the lame duck here.”

“…I think that anyone, public or private, owner of a historic building, should deal and view that building in their position as owner as being a steward of history and a bridge between the current generation and future generations.”

Delaware residents sit and wait for the Council's vote on the Elks Building.

Delaware residents sit and wait for the Council’s vote on the Elks Building.

As part of the passage of the demolition approval, the Council placed restrictions requiring the County to commit to building the new courthouse in Delaware’s downtown, and also placed the existing courthouse, former Carnegie library and county jail on the city’s historic district, requiring the city to have a say in any proposed demolition of those buildings in the future.

Another issue discussed at this week’s meeting was the Dog Park committee’s recommendation that Blue Limestone be converted to a dog park, which Council voted against as a result of constituency concerns, although they did support further exploration of other options by city staff, in consultation with the committee.

Concerns had been raised regarding odor, noise, damage to the grass and the view that selecting Blue Limestone would close it off from other usage by Delaware residents.

Second Ward Councilwoman Lisa Keller was the only council member who did not explicitly oppose Blue Limestone’s selection, but she seemed content with a commitment to further action.

Former Dog Park committee member Peggy Guenther was not content with their decision, however.

Peggy Guenther addresses the Council on their Dog Park decision.

Peggy Guenther addresses the Council on their Dog Park decision.

Guenther challenged the odor and noise concerns, while acknowledging that grass would be damaged, but argued that other local locations suggested by Council would take years to become a proper dog park. She also raised concerns regarding the level of funding extended to the dog park compared to the amount other projects received from levy funds.

“You can put a splash pad out by the soccer fields at the Y(MCA), and they’ll be used three or four months a year when the kids are playing soccer, and you’re willing to spend $300,000 for that, and you’re going to limit us to $75,000 if we are at Blue Limestone, which it sounds like we are not going to be,” she said.

As a whole, the city council had expressed willingness to provide funding beyond the $75,000 provided for fencing costs to convert Blue Limestone to a dog park.

“What hurts me the most is that you would allot $300,000 for a splash pad that will be used less than six months out of the year,” Guenther said to the Council. “What about giving us $300,000 for a dog park?”

Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle did not respond directly to these remarks during the meeting, but did comment on them afterward.

“We said at first that we’d give them $75,000, and we’re willing now to go back and get the feasibility study to see what it will cost to put the amenities in,” Riggle said. “I don’t know that we’ll be able to get to all of her amenities. I understand we need parking, we need good grass, stable grass, we also need fencing and we’re going to have to have trees there. I don’t know that we’re going to get to everything else.”

“The splash pad has been in the works for a long time,” she added. “We’re building a park from the ground up out at Veterans’ Park (by the YMCA).”

Other approved ordinances involved the Clerk of Council’s pay, additional funding for purchase and installation of street trees and street resurfacing, and approval of the final subdivision plat for Stockdale Farms Phase 1, a development project that Planning Director David Efland was particularly happy to see pass, as it had been in the works his entire time in office, more than nine years.

Mark Frame of Heidelberg Distributors also met with the Council to discuss a planned event Friday, August 29 to be held by Deschutes Brewery to benefit the Women’s City Club Foundation.

The Brewery would hold a beer garden on Sandusky Street from William Street to Spring Street, and would run from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., although preparations and dis-assembly would run from 4 p.m. to midnight.

Mark Frame shares his vision for the August 29 Beergarden on Sandusky Street.

Mark Frame shares his vision for the August 29 Beergarden on Sandusky Street.

 

About Spenser Hickey

Spenser Hickey is the DelawareO's reporter for the City Hall beat and a photographer. Providing bi-weekly summaries of Delaware City Council meetings, he seeks to inform and explore the local issues that define Delaware. A senior Journalism major at Ohio Wesleyan, he has also written for the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and The Transcript, OWU's independent student newspaper.

Comments

  1. Michael Stout says:

    “As part of the passage of the demolition approval, the Council placed restrictions requiring the County to commit to building the new courthouse in Delaware’s downtown, and also placed the existing courthouse, former Carnegie library and county jail on the city’s historic district, requiring the city to have a say in any proposed demolition of those buildings in the future.”

    My question to you is SO WHAT?! With this vote, you’ve proven to everyone that being included in the city’s historic district is meaningless in regards to safeguarding historic buildings and that City Council’s input is absolutely NO IMPEDIMENT whatsoever to demolition. You might as well paint targets on the side of every building downtown with the words “WRECKING BALL: STRIKE HERE” in the center.

    I mean, really, the more I look at the different news stories reporting on this, the more it seems like the razing of this structure was a forgone conclusion to the parties involved (except to the Historic Preservation Committee, who voted to prevent demolition). Look:

    1) Councilman Andrew Brush said “The reason the new courthouse must be built on the Hills home site and not further back is because moving it even 30-40 feet back would result in millions of extra dollars spent on the foundation for the new building due to less stable ground in that area,” and then sets up the false dichotomy of “A vote to save it is a vote against preserving our courthouse for future generations, and a vote against the viability of our downtown,” and then added that if the demolition did not take place that the “Elks Building would eventually be demolished due to neglect anyway.” With psychic abilities like that, maybe he should be playing the lotto.

    2) Mark Schluetz, a local resident and registered architect, said he’d been part of the study on planning the new courthouse, and that a past Commissioner “tried to force the study in a direction no one agreed with,” which I assume refers to either the new buildings location or the razing of the Elks building.

    3) John Melvin, Superintendent of Facility Management for the county, said he thought that in the long run – 100 years from now – the new courthouse would have more historic significance than in the Elks Building. (Which, in my opinion, betrays complete ignorance of what makes a building historically significant, and what it means to a community in the HERE AND NOW.) Using logic like that, heck, just raze the whole city and rebuild. Just THINK how wonderfully historic it’ll all be in a hundred years! WOW!

    4) Steve Kenat of GBBN Architects, said “The new courts building shouldn’t necessarily be held hostage by the presence of a 100-year old home adjacent to it.”

    There was literally NO chance they were even considering saving this building. It’s just in the way of their big plans.

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