PIQUA — The community’s wishes for what will become of the old Piqua schools once they become vacant lots was covered during a joint public forum held by Piqua City Schools and the city of Piqua. The idea of low-income housing infilling the vacant lots was the rumor that was discussed and fought the most.
“There is absolutely no future for low-income housing on these lots,” Piqua Mayor Lucy Fess said during the forum held on Monday evening. Fess stated that if residential housing would get put in the lots, it would be “suitable to the neighborhood.”
“The consensus was there is no interest in low-income housing,” Piqua City Planner Chris Schmiesing said about a recent joint work session that pertained to the soon-to-be vacant lots. Schmiesing stated that it was his understanding it was not something that was needed in those neighborhoods and would not be discussed as an option for the lots.
“I don’t want that in my backyard,” Margie Helmer of Piqua said. Helmer said that she would like to see the lot where the old High Street school is become a playground.
One resident asked if there could be a covenant placed on the property that would dictate that whatever type of residential housing went there that it would have to match the quality of the surrounding homes.
“Would there be some kind of covenant (that) this house would have to be stick built or some kind of quality?” Kim Didier of Piqua said.
Didier had concerns for the neighborhood surrounding the old Favorite Hill school.
“It’s so hard to make that neighborhood look amazing and awesome,” Didier said. “We just hate to think that one spot could make or break the whole area.”
Didier explained that low-income housing was put in her neighborhood and she sees the police visiting that spot often.
“I don’t mind if I get neighbors, I love neighbors,” Didier said.
Didier stated that she thought having “homes that match the quality of homes” that are already there would be more beneficial to the neighborhood than to have to someone from out of town rent “to someone who could care less if they take care of it.”
“Piqua is turning around,” Didier said.
Didier’s comments were then met with applause from the group of approximately 30 attendees.
“That street is so, so nice,” Mindy Hodge of Piqua said about the Favorite Hill neighborhood. Hodge reiterated the idea of having an agreement placed on the property that the owner would need to keep it nice.
“We are concerned about the low-income housing,” Hodge said.
Even after reassurance from Schmiesing, Piqua City Schools Superintendent Rick Hanes, and Piqua Board of Education member Frank Patrizio that low-income housing was not on their radar for those lots, the conversation continued to come back to the issue of low-income housing.
One resident asked what would stop the property from going to HUD housing or Section 8 in around a decade. Schmiesing stated that he could not speculate on the properties that far into the future.
Schmiesing stated that if residential infill was what got decided on to be in any of those lots, “it would be a certain quality.” Schmiesing added, “So that it isn’t something that becomes detrimental to the neighborhood.”
Other ideas mentioned included a fenced-in dog park, a playground, and a walking path.
“There’s not a really good place in Piqua for people to take their dogs,” Emily Bowles of Piqua said.
Schmiesing said they were developing a dog park at Hollow Park, but it is not fenced-in yet.
Another rumor that was brought up during the forum was the idea that the lots might have to sit vacant for three years.
“That’s not something that’s stipulated or required by anyone,” Schmiesing said. Hanes confirmed that as well.
The old school buildings are currently finishing up asbestos abatement. The buildings are expected to be demolished and the lots turned to green space by the end of 2015.
“We’re going to take our time and make sure that what happens with our vacant lots is in the best interest in the future of Piqua,” Hanes said.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall