During this week’s Washington Court House City Council meeting, extensive discussion was held on whether or not to vacate two alleys.
Two of the new ordinances that were heard by council, if passed, would allow two alleys to be vacated.
According to www.codepublishing.com, vacating an alley means the public is letting go of, or “vacating,” the public interest in a property. Once vacated, the public no longer has a right to use that section of alley.
One alley is between 501 and 505 S. Elm St. which is located behind Ranchers Roast Beef.
“What they use as the driveway, part of it is actually in an alley, and we need to fix that. It results in issues with the neighboring property owner also,” said City Manager Joe Denen.
The second alley is between 213 and 219 Draper St. which is a short section of alley that passes between the Vapors store and the building that once housed a hair salon across from Kroger, according to Washington Court House Building and Zoning Inspector Rod Bryant. Both buildings, according to officials, are owned by the same person.
Council member Ted Hawk asked, “When we vacate these allies, is it all the way through or just — I mean, for future reference, if somebody wants to have the alley, maybe even an adjoining business to that to drive all the way through, is that going to be an issue in the future?”
“Well, before you vacate an alley, the first thing you look at is does the alley have any utilities in it? The second thing you look at is does the location of the alley deny access to any other users and have a negative impact on them?” said Denen.
“If that were to be vacated, both parcels (of adjacent properties) would get half of that. That would kind of go away,” said Bryant. “We did it for several reasons but basically to help that development a little bit better. It’s kind of split up and real nasty right there.”
Hawk briefly mentioned he uses the alley himself to travel to Kroger and then asked, if by vacating the alley, if that would mean it could no longer be driven through by the public or if people could just drive through their parking lot — unless the lot would be blocked off with possibly a fence.
“Well, once you vacate the alley and it becomes their property, could they (put up a fence) — yes,” said Denen. “I am not aware of any plan to do that, correct Rod?”
“I am not aware of any plan, but that’s absolutely something they could do. We’ve only got about 100 of these cases that Mr. Hawk described,” said Bryant. “The intention is really the planning commission and zoning to kind of give up these alleys.”
Bryant explained the desire is to give up the alleys if possible as these alleys are a big maintenance issue for the city.
Council member Caleb Johnson said, “But if people use the alleys and one day a fence pops up…”
“We looked at it and, again, with the intent that that could happen, it will not impede any current person’s ability to access their premises,” said Bryant.
Council member Kendra Redd-Hernandez asked for clarification on why the alley off Draper needs to be vacated. She further explained she understood why the Elm Street alley makes sense to be vacated as it is already being used by the adjacent property owner rather than as a public alley, and asked if the Draper alley is being used in the same way by the adjacent properties.
“It isn’t,” said Bryant, “but both of those parcels may become one for a larger, nicer development for us — so, then that alley just absolutely has to go away. See, both of those may be combined in one so we can have something nice there. Those buildings are kind of old and won’t be there much longer. We’ve got a good developer there that wants to maintain things.”
Following further discussion, council members Steve Shiltz and Dale Lynch explained they would rather see something be built there than have a parking lot, and that there are other ways around than just through the alley.
Johnson explained if there was a plan for development in the works, he would be “all for it.”
Following long conversation pertaining to the alleys, both ordinances that would allow them to be vacated were placed on first reading and will come up again for second reading during the next council meeting.
The first time legislation is seen and approved by council it is placed on a first reading and the second time on a second reading. Adoption of resolutions can occur once they have been placed on the second reading. Adoption of ordinances can occur once they have been placed on the third reading.
Three more ordinances were heard and placed on first reading by council.
Two of the ordinances, if passed, would allow Denen to abate public nuisances at 710 Clinton Ave. and 422 Broadway St.
As previously reported, a nuisance is caused within a city if a property is dangerous, in a state of disrepair, is uninhabitable, decreases local property value or decreases the enjoyment of the lives of surrounding neighbors. An abatement of nuisance is a way for the city to handle the situation while charging the owner of the property.
The final ordinance, if passed, would allow a prior piece of legislation to be amended. The legislation provides supplemental appropriations for current expenses and expenditures of the city.
Four resolutions were heard and placed on first reading.
Two of the resolutions, if passed, would allow Denen to enter into two different agreements. The first agreement would be with JRG Consulting LLC, an enterprise advisory group, for professional services.
The second agreement would be with the Union Township Trustees of Fayette County for fire protection services through the city. The city currently provides fire protection to Union Township (which Washington C.H. is located within) by contract. If passed, this resolution would allow a renewal of the contract which would extend the term to Dec. 31 of 2025.
“We’ve done that for many years. It works out very well for both sides,” said Denen.
A third resolution, if passed, would allow the appointment of Susan Wollscheid to the Fayette County Metropolitan Housing Authority for a term ending Dec. 31 of 2025.
The final resolution, if passed, would authorize Denen to enter into a contract with Stoops Western Star of Ohio for a state bid purchase of a 2020 Western Star dump truck.
In other news from the council meeting, Denen shared information on the current construction project regarding the Temple Street bridge.
“The Temple Street bridge is essentially complete, the only thing that we are waiting on there is some metal railings that get installed on the bridge. So, as soon as those arrive, they will put those up and the bridge will get opened up again,” he explained.
During closing comments, several council members wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving and Redd-Hernandez said, “If you are going out shopping, please wear your mask, please carry hand sanitizer, and be extremely kind and considerate. Nothing materialistic is worth the other, and I own a materialistic store.”
Washington Court House City Council meetings are held on the second and fourth Mondays during November and December at 9:30 a.m. They are located in the second floor council chambers of the City Administration Building, 105 N. Main Street. The meetings are streamed on the YouTube channel “City of Washington Court House, Ohio” at www.youtube.com/channel/UCRwMxUBn8XIQTjnSvFaGDgA.
Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.