Friday, May 9th, 2014
By Doug Drexler
Construction to start on homes for local vets
  CELINA - Construction should begin within the next two weeks on the first of two single-family homes being built by Lots for Soldiers Inc.
The city's planning commission Thursday night approved the group's request to convert three lots into two at the intersection of Warren and Godfrey streets. The change will allow construction of two one-story, three-bedroom houses that will be sold to current or former members of the military at a very low cost, Homer Burnett, president of the non-profit group said.
Creating the two lots was the intention of city council members when they sold the parcel to the group in December for $13,500, Celina Safety Service Director Tom Hitchcock said.
The first home will go to a Navy veteran of the Iraqi conflict who is an active member of the Naval Reserves, Burnett said. The group is working with St. John Builders and hopes to have the home ready for the veteran, his wife and their two small children before cold weather, Burnett said. The family lives in Montezuma.
The group wants to begin work on the second home next year. Lots for Soldiers had been working with a potential buyer, but that veteran decided to stay in Coldwater, he said.
Lots for Soldiers was started to help veterans find housing at a low cost; this is its first project. The group plans to keep costs down by using volunteers and gathering donations, Burnett said. The group is working on gaining 501(C)3 designation as a non-profit organization.
Burnett wants to give today's returning soldiers a better experience than he had as a Vietnam veteran.
"The best thing they did for us was ignore us," he said.
The homes represent a proper thank-you for veterans' service, he said.
"It'll be a much better use of the property than what was there," Hitchcock said.
In May 2010, the city paid former owner Ron "Butch" Piper $54,369 to demolish structures on the blighted property and clean it.
Meanwhile, commission members learned negotiations are continuing over a tenant for the smaller of two new stores in Harbor Square Shopping Center before signing off on plans for the $2.1 million project.
Developer RG Properties is talking to two potential tenants for the smaller site, one wants 5,500 square feet of space and another wants 6,000 square feet, said project manager Jim Blair. The tenant for the larger, 21,000-square-foot store is more set with about 80 percent of the negotiating process done, he added.
Commission members signed off on the plan allowing up to 6,000 square feet.
The new stores will match the color and design of the existing Harbor Square buildings, Blair said. The plan also calls for an additional 30 parking spaces, for a total of 1,094 parking spots. He also anticipates adding more lights to the parking lot.
Board member Ralph Stelzer asked if the city anticipated traffic issues with the additional volume.
Celina Safety Service Director Tom Hitchcock said the current traffic light on Havemann Road should be sufficient, and the Ohio Department of Transportation limits what can be done at the intersection near Menard's.
Member Tom Hone asked if the current retention pond would be sufficient to handle the additional runoff during rains.
Board secretary Karen Seibert said the pond had been sized to handle runoff assuming all available lots were occupied.
The city zoning board has already approved all variances necessary for the project, Hitchcock said.
Blair said if all goes well, construction on both stores should begin Aug. 1 with a target opening date of March.
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