Dear President Golding and University Area Commissioners,

As we are all aware substantial change in underway in Weinland Park due to the actions of the Weinland Park Collaborative and market forces themselves. However, these two forces are increasingly becoming at odds. As the neighborhood begins to improve and become a neighborhood of choice rather than one of last resort real estate investors have begun to take notice of the area.

This has lead to an increase in modifications and unconventional uses to the historic housing stock, one of the neighborhoods greatest assets. Real estate investors are increasingly purchasing homes with an eye on the student rental market. While the Weinland Park student population is currently 20 percent there has not been widespread modification to the housing stock to this end. However, recently double and single family homes in the area are having attics and basements subdivided into bedrooms increasing the capacity and rental income of the houses which results in “people packing”. In addition, when a double or duplex houses up to 16 students parking becomes an issue often resulting in a variance to park in the back yard and the resultant loss of neighborhood green space. This also strains city services such as trash collection and requires extra police attention from time to time adding to overall neighborhood decline. Exterior modifications such as the addition of party decks, reducing the size of windows during the replacement process and removing original porches also adds to the deterioration of the historic nature of the neighborhood and makes it less attractive to owner occupants.

Consequently, while the Weinland Park Collaborative spends federal tax dollars and philanthropic contributions to stabilize the housing market through increased home ownership and historically sensitive exterior grants from MORPC outside investors undo their work by increasing the amount of transient renters without any stake in the neighborhood. In addition, the disparity between student rental rents and the regular market is astronomical and is beginning to result in resident displacement. In effect, 15 million dollars and considerable effort is being spent to convert one ghetto into another with only another set of outside investors gaining any type of benefit.

Patricia Burgess’Planning for the Private Interest details the history of zoning in Columbus and portions describe the reasons for the decline of the Weinland Park and adjacent neighborhoods. She illustrates the effect of outside investors subdividing historic homes for maximum profit, and the granting of variances for non-conforming land uses to outside investors at the clear expense of residents and their neighborhood. In the end, she convincingly shows that zoning in first ring neighborhoods of Columbus was slanted towards the immediate interests and profits of outside investors at the expense of homeowners and residents in those areas. Subdividing homes for “people packing” and variances granted for non-conforming uses in both buildings and land use over time severely degraded the residential quality of the neighborhoods and exacerbated their decline. These zoning practices continue to this day putting the investor’s immediate concerns of highest and best use before home owners, residents and the long-term health of the neighborhood with the obvious deleterious results.

Since this entire process appears to be repeating itself in Weinland Park I would respectfully suggest that there be changes to the zoning code and a halt to the granting of variances to restore the historic residential nature of Weinland Park. Variances for the use of yards for parking should be immediately stopped. In addition, the subdividing of homes to increase the number of bedrooms should also be stopped as should the removal of porches, the addition of party decks, and changes to window sizes to the historic housing stock. The commission should also support increased code enforcement especially where illegal use is obvious and in the case of whether “people packing” constitutes a boarding house. These investor-driven changes only add to blight and are very expensive to reverse thus perpetuating, perhaps generationally, damage to character of the neighborhood. Many other college neighborhoods have successfully adopted these and other zoning changes to protect neighborhoods and homeowners from predatory investors and I hope the University Area Commission would adopt the positions of residents who hope to improve Weinland Park over investors who merely seek to profit from it. In many ways the success of the Weinland Park Collaborative, pro-active residents who are your constituents and eventually positive neighborhood change rests with you. It is your chance to reverse history.