NEWTON FALLS Property owners want input on project
Property owner assessments make up about 10 percent of the project costs.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NEWTON FALLS -- Supporters contend it will spawn growth, but some property owners don't think they've had enough input on the Broad Street redevelopment project.
The roughly $2.5 million project includes sidewalks, decorative streetlighting, utility improvements, street resurfacing, trees and landscaping and mid-block pedestrian crosswalks.
The project is being funded with $695,000 from the city's electrical capital fund; $90,000 from its municipal sewer fund; a $192,266 state Issue 2 grant; a $567,186 no-interest state Issue 2 loan; $98,000 from the Ohio Department of Transportation maintenance funds; $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant money over two years from Trumbull County; and a $300,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Development.
An additional $234,435 would come from property owner assessments, and organizers hope to get $110,548 in donations for memorial light poles, benches and other items.
Because the municipal building is within the project area, the city will pay $66,000 in front footage assessments.
The property owner assessments will amount to about 10 percent of the project costs.
Frontage costs: Broad Street property owners between the West River Bridge and Center Street and those on Canal Street will pay $80 per front foot. Property owners on Broad between Center and Milton Boulevard and between Ridge Road and the West River Bridge, and those on Center Street will pay $40 per front foot.
Sidewalks about 12 feet wide will be installed on Canal Street and between the bridge and Center Street, and the remaining project area will get 6-foot-wide sidewalks, accounting for the cost difference.
Council passed legislation last week to pay E.G. & amp;G. Inc. of Akron $231,850 for engineering.
"Primarily it's an economic development project," said Joseph Mazzola of the Akron company and the project manager.
People, including prospective business owners, get their first impression about a community from its main corridor, and the deteriorating condition of the Broad Street corridor gives a false impression of Newton Falls, he said.
"Private investment is the critical driver of economic development," Mazzola said. "Private investment is attracted to areas of perceived economic opportunity. The perception of economic opportunity is heavily influenced by real estate location image."
Not everyone sees it that way.
Against project: "I'm against it," said Elizabeth Welsko, one property owner who circulated a petition among others who oppose the project.
"I feel we're being asked to send out money without us having any input," she said.
What has some property owners up in arms is the way the project was moved forward.
Organizers got the approval of those who own a majority of the front footage of the project area, but not a majority of the property owners.
The project affects 48 properties, not counting the city. Three people own a majority of the property, said David Gwara, a property owner who thinks letters should have been sent to each of the affected owners, informing them about the project.
He learned about it by word-of-mouth.
"I think the project will make the town look nice," Gwara said. "I'm not against the project. It's how they've gone about it."
Mazzola contends that collecting signatures from those who own the majority of the front footage follows state law.
"They'll also be paying the most in assessments," he said.
For the project: Richard Kolovich supports the project, mainly because of the uniformity it will provide between the east and west sides of the downtown. Economic development likely won't be immediate, but Kolovich thinks the project will generate business in the long run.
After the approving signatures were collected, property owners were invited in groups of two or three to meet with the project manager, Mazzola said.
About 80 percent of them met with company and city representatives to learn about the project and get answers to their questions. Those who were unable to attend a meeting were given information about the project, Mazzola said.
Mazzola said the meetings were arranged in smaller groups to answer individual questions.
"A large group can be unwieldy," he said.