Council hears ideas to improve downtown, riverfront

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — A presentation on strategies for the downtown and riverfront were given to Sidney City Council during its Monday evening workshop session.

Jim Hill, executive director of the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership (SSEP), introduced Barry Alberts of CityVisions Associates, who has been working with SSEP and Sidney Alive to help strategize the vision for downtown. CityVisions, of Louisville, Kentucky, is a downtown developer/consultant that has previous worked on the riverfront development strategy in Piqua, Dayton and Springfield.

Alberts shared information with council members on Phase I of the downtown Sidney development strategy. This study, which is being funded by the city of Sidney, Shelby County, Sidney Alive, SSEP, and private investors, kicked off last year.

Alberts complimented Sidney’s authenticity, good bones and character downtown, which he said many downtowns have lost. He also spoke highly of Sidney being the gateway to the Miami Valley with the use of the water and trailways and downtown’s close proximity to the riverway. Sidney has a great basis to work with from its existing businesses and architecture downtown, he said, but that the downtown needs dressed up more. He also pointed out the opportunity for potential buyers’ ability to purchase property at a very inexpensive cost, and then renovate one of the run-down homes, in Sidney’s downtown area.

The study Alberts covered Monday night with his PowerPoint presentation included:

• A review of downtown area conditions. Through pictures, he pointed out differences between Sidney’s public areas downtown and other similar sized downtowns. Alberts showed how other communities made inexpensive improvements to draw people into the downtown. He recommended adding more color, flowers, flags, benches, sandwich boards inexpensive seating and tables outside of businesses, or other things to attract attention to the downtown.

• A review of riverfront conditions;

• Existing strengths and weaknesses; challenges and opportunities;

• Identification of target properties (including the Ohio Building and Old Jail);

• River access and connectivity;

• Downtown infrastructure improvements;

• Adjacent neighborhood stabilization evaluation.

City Manager Mark Cundiff said the study will be used to develop a preliminary downtown development vision and strategy, identify initial projects, or public actions that could serve as catalysts for the strategy, analyze development financing options, and develop a multi-phased implantation program.

The next stage, Phase II, Alberts said, will be to work with Sidney Alive on some of the things that could be done to make downtown appear more welcoming. He noted City Council should also talk more about the city’s connection to the Great Miami River. Alberts said it is important to push more of the city’s connectivity to the river, as more and more (younger) people want to enjoy being on the river. Access to the river is more important than riverview properties, he noted.

In other business, Cundiff reviewed the upcoming Zoning Board/Planning Commission agenda scheduled for Monday, March 16, 2020, and reviewed the prospective City Council agenda items for the next 30 days.

The Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Monday, March 16, has been moved to Friday, March 20, at 10 a.m., in order to have a quorum, Cundiff said.

According to City Clerk Kari Egbert, during council members’ comments, Council member Steve Wagner questioned the city’s responsibility to inspect the condition of exterior buildings. He pointed to the incident from the previous weekend where bricks fell from the exterior of the building used by The Spot Restaurant for its catering service. Cundiff said the community development staff regularly reviews the condition of the exterior of buildings, but there is no schedule of inspection of the interior of buildings. He said such inspections are not within the authority of the city’s residential building department.

In addition, proper inspection of buildings for structural/building code compliance requires entering areas not open to the public, which requires permission of the building owner or person in charge of the building. Building inspectors do not have the ability to force interior inspections except for buildings that show evidence from the exterior that it meets the definition of a “dangerous building.”

Cundiff cautioned that even then, the only way to gain entry without permission of the owner is through an administrative search warrant obtained pursuant to constitutional guidelines. Law Director Jeff Amick said city staff is very active in this area when potential problems are reported or identified.

Also during council comments, Council member Jenny VanMatre invited all to a prayer vigil in remembrance of those who died battling addiction and for first responders, who respond to those calls. The vigil will be held at Julia Lamb Park on Saturday, March 7, 2020, from 1 to 3 p.m.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.