Northland News

Northland year in review

Closing hotel, apartments count as 2013 successes

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

As a rule, progress in a community or neighborhood is measured by what opened in the course of a year.

For the Northland area, two things that closed in 2013 might point the way to better days ahead.

On June 13, city officials shut down the Columbus Inn and Suites motel on Zumstein Drive as a potential public nuisance due to drug dealing, prostitution and code violations. Officials reported that police officers had been summoned to the establishment nearly 500 times between Jan. 12, 2012, and March 19 of this year.

In October, Assistant City Attorney William Sperlazza and Larry Geis, community liaison officer for one of the police precincts serving the area, stated at a Northland Community Council meeting that the closure may have served as a wake-up call to owners and managers of other motels near the intersection of Interstate 71 and East Dublin-Granville Road.

Also in June, Columbus Department of Building and Zoning Services personnel stepped in and ordered the closing of the Summit Park Apartments south of Morse Road after declaring the 260-unit complex unsafe for habitation. Again, community leaders said this might serve to spur action on the part of those managing other troubled apartment complexes in the Northland area where maintenance and upkeep had become something other than a priority.

The start of 2013 saw an expansion of the mission for what had been the NCC's graphics task force. Volunteers with the renamed Northland area code task force continued to remove illegally placed signs and report violations of the city's graphics code, but also took on zoning code issues, as well.

"A function of the Northland Community Council's development committee, the task force has been functioning in Northland since January of 2010, pursuing graphics code violations," coordinator William Logan wrote in an email. "In the three intervening years, thousands of illegally placed roadside signs have been removed, hundreds of graphics violations have been brought to the city's attention for removal and dozens of graffiti tags remediated."

According to Logan, 52 zoning code violations were filed with the city for resolution in 2013.

In February, city officials announced plans to erect a compressed natural gas fueling station for municipal vehicles on Morse Road property that had been the site of a White Castle restaurant.

During much of 2013, NCC members and other community residents were involved in updating the neighborhood plan for the area within the outerbelt. The updated plan was unanimously approved at the council's December meeting for eventual adoption by Columbus City Council.

In March, Columbus Metropolitan Library leaders unveiled a "kindergarten readiness room" at the Karl Road Branch. A sort of pilot project, the space is intended to help prepare young children and their parents for the start of school.

In April, at the NCC's annual awards banquet, Timothy Keller was named Police Officer of the Year and Scott Benjamin was presented with the Firefighter of the Year award.

For much of 2013, an ambitious $5-million improvement project had Karl Road closed to northbound traffic between East Dublin-Granville and Schrock roads. What Mayor Michael B. Coleman touted as an "essentially new" Karl Road during a May ceremony marking the start of construction completely reopened to traffic in December.

Also in May, the nonprofit Community Crime Patrol expanded territory to include the North Linden area and the Clinton Estates and Maize Morse Tri-Area neighborhoods of Northland.

In June, Northland Alliance Chairwoman Joyce Bourgault announced the Northland Community International Festival would be back for a second year on June 22, with the addition of a health fair sponsored by the North Side Health Advisory Committee. It was one of the high points of the year for the panel, according to a report compiled by co-chairs Sandy LaFollette and Scott Dowling.

"The North Side Health Advisory Committee works in partnership with Columbus Public Health to identify and address health issues that affect the residents of Northland," the two wrote. "The NSHAC promotes healthy lifestyles through education and volunteerism at a variety of events.

"In 2013, the NSHAC partnered with several groups and individuals to help fulfill these goals. There are a great number of people to whom we owe our thanks.

"The most ambitious event NSHAC helped stage this year was the Northland International Festival held at the Northland Performing Arts Center on June 22," Dowling and LaFollette wrote.

The festival featured stage performances, a variety of community service organizations, a kids' play area and a free health fair exhibit. The main exhibit at the health fair was presented by the Rev. Kwesi Gyimah and volunteers from the Columbus African Seventh Day Adventist Church. Visitors to the festival were able to visit the exhibit, get several types of health assessments and receive free health evaluations.

In July, LaFollette helped preside over yet another edition of the NCC-sponsored Independence Day Parade. She was once again in charge of the committee that organized what is considered to be the largest community-sponsored Fourth of July parade in the state.

"Northland International Celebrating America" was this year's theme.

"In the latter half of the year, NSHAC had the pleasure to help promote and participate in the 'Walk with a Doc' program, which is a neighborhood walking club organized by Mount Carmel, with the support of the YMCA, the Columbus Medical Association Foundation, the Institute for Active Living and the city of Columbus," Dowling and LaFollette wrote. "Walkers met at Woodward Park Community Center on the first and third Saturday of each month from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., starting on Sept. 7.

The walks were led by a Mount Carmel System physician, who made a short informational presentation before the start, and who was available throughout for questions.

In October, Northland community leaders expressed satisfaction with a decision by the Franklin County Board of Elections to relocate all offices and operations to a former Kohl's store at 1700 Morse Road.

"I think it's wonderful," said Dave Paul, former NCC president and chairman of the development committee. "It's a thing we've been advocating for, talking with the commissioners about. We were hearing they liked the site, obviously, because of its central location ... to the area basically served by the board of elections. It really seemed like a good fit to us, and we're glad that the commissioners also felt that way."

"They were very welcoming neighbors, and we look forward to maybe becoming a part of that area in the future," said Dana Walch, deputy director of the board of elections.

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