LIMA — A proposed housing development at 1105 E. Market St. has been able to move forward after a second hour-long discussion about the project resulted in a portion of Lima city councilors deciding to uphold the special use permit that would allow it.
The 12-unit development currently being pushed forward by Tetrad Partners had initially caused waves in the neighborhood when early discussions showed that the project could increase traffic in an abutting alleyway. Neighbors — most notably Kevin and Manieka Binkley — contended that an estimated 30 cars would hamper their privacy and safety if the city-owned alley by their house was used as was intended by the project.
Other neighbors in the area, Marlene Smith and Shirley Banks, also added their voices to the argument. Concerns ranged the gamut — from safety for children to concerns of a future “Snake Pit.”
Council’s Tuesday night neighborhood concerns committee was much of the same conversation as neighbors publicly derided the project. By the end, it had turned ugly as Kevin Binkley labeled developer Mike Blass as “arrogant” and only concerned about dollars.
He also contended that Blass could not guarantee that the mid- to upper- range market rate triplexes currently planned for the lot would not become the home for future “drug dealers” who use rental assistance.
“We’ve researched the market and the market is clamoring for rental housing at this price point,” Blass said. “Last project we did, we projected at $800 (monthly rent) and we’re getting $890. That tells me there’s demand.”
As for council’s part in the meeting, many offered potential compromises between the developer and the neighborhood. At one point, Community Development Director Susan Crotty shared the overhead architect’s plan of the project which showed in detail how the project uses the alleyways.
For about 15 minutes, councilors asked Blass to adjust his plans by rotating certain portions.
Councilors also discussed the potential of closing the alleyway, which was encouraged by Kevin Binkley, but the site plans showed that any closing of the alley would hamper parking access for a number of units.
Blass has contended that any changes to property plans, such as the elimination of units or closing the alley, will erode the profitability of the $950,000 project.
After prompting by council, he said he could go and talk to his architect about potential tweaks, but he trusts that the architect’s initial professional opinion — that changes would lead to non-profitability — would still stand.
In the end, Councilor Tony Wilkerson reminded the committee that council’s job was not to approve or disapprove the project overall, but to either give a yea or nay to the special use permit that tweaks the lot’s residential zoning.
“We have to be careful when we move forward here,” Wilkerson said. “When we’re trying to get more apartments in the City of Lima, we have to make sure we don’t make the task too difficult for developers.”
Wilkerson made the motion to allow the special use permit to go forward without the full council’s need to weigh in, which was passed unanimously by the committee.
Councilor Peggy Ehora, however, asked for one stipulation. While she admitted that Blass can’t control how future residents access the rental units, putting up signs to try to direct traffic in the development may help alleviate the number of cars moving through the alleyway next to the Binkley’s house.
“We’re trying our best to make Lima a better place to live,” Councilor Derry Glenn said. “We need more developers. This is not the first time we’re going to be working with developers. We need them.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.