The Independence Day week's German Village Commission meeting July 5 was one of the best-attended meetings since the commission's move downtown this spring.
Two Livingston Avenue development projects were on the agenda, and the opportunity for our neighbors to be heard at that public meeting were a compelling reason to attend.
It's one of the greatest assets of our neighborhood -- passionate, preservation-focused neighbors, and the opportunity to be heard by the public body tasked with making decisions about these projects that impact the fabric of this historic community.
Before and since the meeting, the German Village Society staff and Board of Trustees have taken questions about the process and role of the Society, so I thought I'd try to tackle here the most-frequently asked.
First, just the briefest outline of the projects that got everyone's attention:
* 247-281 E. Livingston -- The properties are currently a set of business offices and the owner wants to build a condo project, which will require variances that include parking and tree-planting.
* 31 E. Livingston -- Luxe Hotels wants to build a hotel between Pearl and City Park Avenue along Livingston with about 124 rooms and 14 parking spots, according to the most recent drawings shown to the Commission.
Not on the July 5 agenda, but also in our sights, is a proposal the Lykens Co. is considering at Fourth and Thurman to build apartments.
Taken together, it is clear we are facing an unprecedented number of large-scale projects in our historic district.
Is the society playing an advocacy role on these projects?
In a word, yes. The Society speaks through the expertise and voice of our Historic Preservation Advocate Nancy Kotting. It's important to note, however, that the Society has a voice but doesn't get a vote. All voting is left to the commissioners.
What is the difference between Society and the Commission?
The Commission is a quasi-governmental entity acting in behalf of the mayor of Columbus and City Council. It is a special zoning commission (often referred to as an architectural review commission) that was established in 1960 by City Ordinance No. 976-60.
It is made up of seven mayoral appointees who serve without compensation. One of the responsibilities of the Commission is to consider applications for certificates of appropriateness for exterior alterations within the German Village Historic District.
The Society and Commission are separate organizations.
It is common for representatives of the Society to attend meetings of the Commission and advocate -- as a public speaker -- for neighborhood residents and members of the Society.
One benefit to this arrangement is that the Society has a long-term, ongoing relationship with the Commission because of the permanence of the Society.
What process is the Society following?
The Society actively seeks to reach out to potential new owners in the neighborhood. We offer preservation education about how to make a project not only conform to the guidelines, but how to engage the neighborhood early and often as plans develop -- and how to be a good neighbor.
They may or may not take our advice, but we actively offer it.
There are many more frequently asked questions on our homepage germanvillage.com. I hope you'll take the time to read it, and watch for more conversation about these projects.
German Village Society Board of Trustees Chairwoman Heidi Drake submitted the Village Notebook column.