Urbana council continues to weigh rezoning request

A request by Lewis Center-based medical developer Hplex Solutions to rezone 11.5 acres in the Urbana Commons Planned Unit Development (Walmart) on the east side of Urbana continued its march through the legal process Tuesday as City Council heard the second reading of an ordinance to rezone the land from residential/open space to office/medical campus.

Community Development Manager Doug Crabill, who spoke twice on the subject Tuesday – once during a public hearing on the rezoning request and again during the council meeting – stated the city received the application for rezoning on Aug. 9 from Urbana MOB LLC, an affiliate of Hplex Solutions. The tract of land in question, known as Subarea E of the Urbana Commons PUD, is located in the northwest corner of the East U.S. Route 36/North Dugan Road intersection.

“(Hplex Solutions) is a medical developer that works with hospitals on projects that hospitals might desire to develop,” Crabill said. In this case, they are working with Memorial Health, which is a hospital system in Marysville, who currently owns the Family Physicians practice (now Memorial Primary Care | Urbana) here in Urbana. They will be expanding their existing operations onto this site in a new building.”

Crabill added Hplex Solutions doesn’t currently own the land, but would proceed with purchasing it from RG Properties if the request to rezone is approved by council after a third reading.

Along with hearing the second reading of the rezoning request, council heard the second reading of an ordinance adopting the official zoning text for office/medical campus uses for Subarea E of the Urbana Commons PUD.

Crabill said city staff and the developer worked together to develop the text, which was left blank when the final plans were approved for the PUD in 2005/2006. The text consists of language pertaining to regulations for the site for items such as approved uses, signage, parking, setbacks, landscaping, etc., he said.

Citizen speaks out

During the public hearing on the matter, city resident Eleanor McGuire questioned the impact the planned medical facility may have on Mercy Memorial Hospital.

“They have 200 employees there,” she said. “We have a hospital that treats those who are indigent and under-served, which has been their mission. How is this going to be protected with this type of facility coming in?”

Crabill responded, “Ultimately, we are here to consider the zoning and not capitalism. That’s the simple answer.”

“It’s a travesty,” McGuire added. “I think the community should stand behind them (Mercy Memorial).”

City seeking buyer for former armory

The former Ohio National Guard Armory located at 1412 N. Main St. in Urbana is going up for sale to the public via sealed bids after council passed an ordinance allowing for the disposal of the city-owned 3.48-acre property.

Owned by the city until 1949, the property was sold to the state of Ohio and served as an armory until the state closed the facility and returned the property back to the city in 2007.

From 2009-2014, the facility was leased by Ohio Hi-Point Career Center in Bellefontaine and was the institution’s South Campus. The career center decided in 2014 not to renew another five-year lease with the city, leaving the facility vacant.

Director of Administration Kerry Brugger said that since July 2014, the city has been marketing the building to a variety of entities. While several have expressed interest, no one has fully committed, leaving the city with bills to pay on an unoccupied building.

“We don’t have a legitimate use for it,” he said. “It’s not something we have a solid need for as a city.”

When the property goes up for sale before the end of this year, it will do so with a minimum bid set by the administration of $390,000, which will cover the city’s outstanding financial obligations on the property.

In other business:

•Former mayor Ruth Zerkle addressed council with her concerns over the city “painting the town yellow.”

“Our curbs where I live are all yellow,” she said, citing specifically the following streets: Court, Church, Ward and Kenton. “Those folks on Kenton Street don’t have a place to park. They are parking on the yellow, so I’m hoping the police can’t give them a notice.”

Brugger responded to Zerkle’s concerns by saying that area underwent road work during the recent Phase 1 Water Main Replacement Project, and the curbs that were replaced during the project have be repainted.

He added the city’s ordinance outlining parking restrictions near intersections, crosswalks, etc. is taken from the Ohio Revised Code.

“Where we paint is according to the ordinance,” Brugger said. “Unless somebody can tell me different, I don’t believe we have local authority to override the Ohio Revised Code (pertaining to traffic laws).”

•The Stormwater Advisory Committee will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, in municipal court chambers.

•Council approved a $26,580 purchase order to Champaign County Telephone Sales & Services for IT support through the rest of 2016 for the city’s computer network, telephone system and video/audio system.

Brugger said the city’s longtime IT provider – B&K Digital – recently decided to cease operations, which left the city in need of a new provider.

“We are getting a good service at a pretty good price,” he added.

•Council agreed to increase a purchase order to Blaugrund, Herbert & Martin Inc. for general labor and employment law support by $10,000, bringing the total purchase order to date for 2016 to $35,000.

By Joshua Keeran


Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.