It's one step at a time for upgrades in Greenfield, but improvements are adding up
Village of Greenfield
The Greenfield administration, local boards and regular citizens have for time been taking steps to improve the village in every way — through economic development, fostering active boards and council committees, and cleaning up blighted properties.
At a recent village council meeting resident Steve Fligor spoke to council about a number of things, which included remarks on improvements in several areas across the village. But he also spoke about Greenfield being in danger of losing its own, unique culture.
“We have to have active boards, active committees, and this includes council committees,” Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin said. “If we on the third floor dictate all that happens, there’s a good chance that culture will be lost.”
There are several committees comprised of council members — finance; parks and properties; economic development; ordinance; and health, safety, and welfare — and when those committees hold a meeting, they are public.
When meetings are upcoming, they are to be posted, and the public is encouraged to attend.
“This goes back to active committees and boards with public input and the infusion of public opinion,” Wilkin said.
One of the local boards working toward Greenfield’s betterment is the CIC (Community Improvement Corporation). It was established in 1963 and is the oldest in Highland County. It has the ability to acquire, sell, and fix properties — things that are beyond the village itself to do.
“The CIC has so much authority and ability to change our community,” Wilkin has said. “It has the ability to become the positive change agent we need.”
While the board for years has largely been inactive, that has changed in the last year or so with the village’s improvement endeavors.
Lanny Bryant, chairman of Greenfield’s CIC board, said, “I don’t want us to be a do-nothing board, and we are not a do-nothing board.”
When properties go through a CIC, the board is able to acquire a loan, make improvements, and sell the property at market value, whereas the village can only sell through auction. Bryant said when the CIC sells a property, that money will be used to further the efforts of cleaning up Greenfield.
According to Bryant, when selling a property the CIC can place specific stipulations on that property that the buyer must adhere to. An example of a stipulation is that a property must be cleaned up and made liveable within a certain period of time.
“It’s hard to bring people into the village from the outside,” Bryant said, when there is so much needing done with blighted properties. “If there’s a way we can change that, make it better, that’s what we are working to do.”
“To see our community looking better all around is a tall order, but we will keep plowing away at it,” Bryant added. “We’ve got a great board and a cooperative council.”
Recently, at property at 719 Spring St. that the CIC has handled, was sold. The property was vacant and a blight and was acquired through code enforcement. The new owner plans to renovate the home.
Three other properties — 425 Olive St., 311 North St., and 769 Spring St. — are currently in receivership with the CIC.
Another endeavor has been to promote Greenfield’s CRA (Community Reinvestment Area). The pre-1994 CRA means that the tax-abatement on a property in the program is 100-percent and for 15 years versus a CRA formed after 1994 where the tax abatement and length of abatement are negotiable.
The CRA program must be applied for, and anyone interested in learning more can contact the village offices by calling 937-981-3500. A brochure is also available on Greenfield’s website at greenfieldohio.net.
“The CRA is a great tool for a citizen of Greenfield or for a business here or a business looking to locate here,” Wilkin said.
There are 330 buildings in the village that are in a state of disrepair and neglect, Wilkin said. “That’s 330 opportunities for improvement. The CRA provides a necessary tool to affect a necessary change and invest in those properties.”
Wilkin’s focus is on Greenfield. But the city manager is also keeping in view what is happening in the region. He recently met with Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha, because fostering good relationships and partnerships with other places in the area means working together toward goals that will benefit the region, he said.
As an example, if a new industry came to Greenfield’s industrial park, bringing with it jobs, that would not just be a benefit to Greenfield, but to the surrounding area as folks from outside Greenfield would likely work there, too. And that also goes the other way. If a new industry came to Leesburg’s industrial park or to Hillsboro, there would likely be Greenfield folks seeking employment in those places.
Bryant echoed WIlkin’s point. He said he would like to see communities working together. “Everybody benefits,” he said. “We can all thrive if we work together.”
Something else the village has been working on toward redevelopment efforts are its outdated zoning codes.
Last year, two different committees were created, both made up of residents and business owners in the community. Each group met separately with OHM Advisors, a community advancement firm out of Columbus, to review current codes and discuss ways the zoning needed to change. The firm took all the information and has drafted new zoning codes, which are currently under review by the residents and business owners who provided input in the meetings with OHM.
The next step is council review and public input. The updated codes will be available to the public once it is in its final form. They will be made available through Facebook, the village’s website, and physical copies that will be available at the City Building.