With all the talk about the need for affordable housing opportunities in Lima, it was a surprising twist when Lima Mayor David Berger recently pulled his support for a potential $12-million housing project involving a developer the city has worked with in the past.
As it turns out, maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising since the mayor just recently learned the location of the project is in the Shawnee School District, not Lima City Schools.
While this has caused Berger and most on City Council to do an about-face, does that mean the project should be vacated? We too have concerns, though different from the mayor’s.
The site in question is vacant land beside Chief Supermarket and the closed K of C Hall on South Cable Road. One of the developers proposing the project — called Shawnee Lofts — is New Lima-Housing for the Future, a company which previously has been involved with subsidized housing in Lima. It is working with St. Mary Development Corp.
Berger argues that, for the good of the city, the project should not get a tax break. He maintains state tax credits would help create a project that would provide low-income families an extra incentive to locate where they could leave Lima Schools and attend Shawnee Schools. That in turn would continue the shrinking of Lima Schools and what the mayor refers to as “the hollowing” of cities like Lima.
“They are eroding our city centers. That cannot be a decision in how these resources are spent. It hurts us, and we can’t cooperate with that,” Berger said.
The mayor is pushing for alternative sites in the city that he feels will benefit Lima schools and neighborhoods. All council members, with the exception of Carla Thompson, signed the letter Berger sent to Keian Craig of the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.
While we understand the mayor’s concerns, it isn’t a bad thing to provide housing where parents of lesser means receive an educational option. The discussion about Shawnee Lofts shouldn’t be diminished to building walls around the city to keep kids inside the Lima Schools system.
The bigger issue is one raised by Councilor Peggy Ehora concerning safety: There is no access road from the proposed apartments to Cable Road in the early plans, she said. The constant traffic coming in or out of the project would see cars using the already busy supermarket’s parking lot as its access road. That’s unacceptable.
We also want to know what process would be put in place to ensure the property is well-maintained by its tenants five, 10 and 15 years down the road. Shawnee Lofts is a slick sounding name from a developer right now, but we don’t want to see it referred to as the Shawnee Dump years later. That’s the last thing Lima needs.
If the safety and maintenance issues cannot be answered, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency should put the project in the “no” column when it releases its tax credits in May.