By Sean Rice
Celina City Council is supporting new developments at the former Mersman furniture factory on Wayne Street, despite questions lingering about the development.
Council unanimously agreed to commit $95,000 to assist with a $7 million project to build 28 starter homes and a 24-unit affordable living center for senior citizens on the current Mersman site.
The homes and living center will have income requirements, but will not be considered "section 8" low income housing, where tenants can have little or no income. Developers do not know yet what the income requirements will be.
Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, managers of Celina Garden Apartments, plan to use federal tax credits through the Ohio Housing Finance Authority to develop the site.
Kent Bryan, development consultant for Celina, told council members the development differs from existing fixed-income or low income apartment complexes in the city. At low income apartments, such as Williamsburg in Celina, renters must move if their income increases. At "affordable" housing complexes, such as Celina Garden Apartments on Devonshire Drive, renters do not have to move if their income increases. The planned rental units would run from about $400 to $480. The starter homes would be a rent-to-own situation, and after 15 years the renters have an option to purchase.
Randy Bruns, co-owner of Rockford Construction Services (RCS), the company that will do the building, explained that market studies have shown the community can sustain additional homes and affordable apartments.
"What about people who already have apartments for rent," asked council member Angie King at a Monday night meeting. "We already have affordable houses through the city."
King said she has "reservations" about the effect on Celina's economy and if too much affordable housing will attract people of "modest income" from out of the area.
"We do nothing to this three blocks, the economic impact will be much greater," Bryan said.
Costs to demolish existing buildings are estimated to be greater than $1.5 million. Brickyard Investments, which owns the site, is working with Bryan and state officials to secure grants for demolition. Bruns is manager of Brickyard Investments.
King asked if Celina's commitment of $95,000 was premature because the site demolition is not worked out yet. Bryan said demolition is the company's responsibility, and the city's money will only help with project development.
The rental units and starter homes are shown in plans to utilize the north half of the site. On the south end is a business, Alumacast, and a dilapidated building owned by the estate of Parker and Margaret Snyder.
Council members finalized an ordinance Monday that changes the zoning on the entire site from manufacturing to residential. Members were assured by Bryan that Alumacast's owners are OK with the change and are still seeking to relocate the growing business.
Some council members worried the zoning change would limit Alumacast's expansion possibilities on site. An effort by developers to purchase the final portion of the site from the Snyder family was unsuccessful due to the cost.