It’s time for Weinland Park to leave the nest. Being part of the University Area District has been entertaining but we all have to admit it’s not really working out for us. The University Area Commission (UAC) is essentially the legislative/zoning arm of absentee campus landlords. Even Ohio State’s Student Government representative on the commission works for a campus landlord. “I assist buyers and sellers in their student housing investment needs.” according to his LinkedIn page. So you can pretty much guess where his vote is going to fall. There is a commissioner that represents rental property owners and there is a commissioner that represents business owners who is a also a campus rental property owner. In fact, only one commissioner voted against a resolution last week to urge City Council to to pester Ohio State about making the sophomore residency rule voluntary. Once again the big question is who will live in the vacated apartments and houses? Campus landlords always point out that “undesirable elements” will move into the core student area. Read this as thinly veiled code for  the  poor and people of color. It’s essentially extortion. They’re saying if we’re not allowed to fleece suburban college kids we’re going to make a new ghetto right next to the Wexner Center. Will they? Or will they fix up the dwellings for a different market?

Recent events suggest that they will adapt to the market. Buckeye Realty recently changed their plan for a new building on 11th from two five bedroom units to 5 two bedroom units in response to the movement of sophomores to campus. What they did not propose was a crack house or gang hide-away.

I don’t think you can really secede.

Actually, all you need is City Council to redraw the boundaries of the University District and we’re out. Dennison Place floated the balloon of annexation to Victorian Village in 1989.

Yes, it was the same in 1989. You needed proof to get in there.

Complaining that their recently restored historic neighborhood had nothing in common with the transient student neighborhood to the north some Dennison Placers prepared for departure. Unfortunately, they did not ask anyone in  Victorian Village and like the recent “Welcome to the Short North” signs nothing throws the good citizens of the real Short North into a tizzy like somebody they perceive as moving into their neighborhood on their own.

That could never happen today

Kenneth Rider, a Dennison Place resident, said “the Victorian Village Commission is concerned with preserving the historical integrity of the area and the original nature of homes, as opposed to the University Area Commission which has no real penalty power if someone wants to do something really outrageous to the outside of their home.” (Cols. Dispatch, Dec. 20, 1989) Apparently the 1980s version of secession was  a rehashing of a flare-up from the 1970s when Dennison Placers wanted an architectural review board such as the one in Victorian Village. And 23 years later the UARB still doesn’t have any real penalty power. Coincidence? Dennison Place again flirted with secession in 1990 but it appears the neighborhood was not unified in the effort. Interestingly, the kerfuffle came about when the UAC Zoning committee granted variances for multi-family housing in the area. The full commission later voted down the zoning recommendation but not before the neighborhood was completely up in arms and ready to be annexed into Victorian Village.

So what if we don’t secede?

Well, you might possibly get used to red solo cups, although blue also seems to be quite popular now. Expect some mock outrage on the behalf of various University District organizations. As the Dispatch pointed out on January 6, 1988, “University area community organizations are aware that their entire community has been stereotyped as a staging area for invasions and retreats of student hordes, and they are trying to combat that image.” Which still seems to be the case.

The University Area Review Board (UARB) operates more by tradition and precedent than actual planning and design standards so the conversion of houses to student housing might continue even if the students aren’t there. Thus far they have had little appetite to stop it and no actual regulatory power.  And why would they? The majority don’t live in the University area and a couple are landlords or have been affiliated in the past.  In essence, neither the UAC or the UARB really seem to have the best interests of the residents of Weinland Park at heart. If students displace current residents that ‘s all the more profitable for most people on both the commission and the board.And with no actual power and a lot of precedent what benefit are they going to get telling someone that now we’re going to stop screwing up the neighborhood and you’re the first one that can’t do it. As a board member “that’s the way we’ve always done” it is obviously the path of least resistance. Especially if someone else lives beside the mess. So ascertaining which way the vote is going to go isn’t all that difficult. Just like ascertaining where people in Weinland Park are going to go…away.

It would be nice if City Council took note and reconfigured the University Area Review Board and granted some semblance of local control. Your local blogger would suggest that the seats now given to American Institute of Architects members be given to architecture and design people that actually live in the neighborhood.  If there aren’t enough qualified individuals in an area around one of the largest universities in the country then the A.I.A can seat the remainder. One has to ask that as far as design and preservation goes how much worse could it be?

Two-thirds of Weinland Park, outlined in black, is outside of the purview of the UARB which is the area labeled here as the University Impact District – why? No one knows.

And your local blogger also wonders about the the seven University Area Commissioners that are nominated and appointed by who knows how or what group. If the actual resident contingent is not at a full complement then it’s easy for residents to get thumped. Weinland Park might be better off at the mercy of City Council rather than a commission that only elects about half of its members while the other half is usually complicit at helping the first half wring the last dime out of the neighborhood.

So if we secede from the University Area District won’t we just be throwing ourselves at the mercy of landlords anyway? Not if we join Italian Village. Seen any traditional student housing there lately. And we’ve already got the signs. Caio.

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