City council approves affordable housing project

By Kaylee Olmsted

Oxford City Council  heard the first reading of an ordinance which would allow the 5-acre Merry Day Park to be rezoned to allow the construction of a 50-unit minimum affordable apartment complex for families or seniors, officials said.

City council plans to partner with the nonprofit St. Mary’s Development Corporation to apply for funding for the project. Whether it is ultimately affordable housing for seniors and families will depend on the type of funding they receive, said Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene. 

According to the 2020 Housing Needs Assessment, the city will need an additional 323 low-income housing units by 2025.

The proposed project, at 55 Reaghs Way adjoining the Talawanda Oxford Pantry and Social Services facility off College Corner Pike, “would be a game changer for affordable housing,” said City Councilor David Prytherch.

“In a town like ours, that makes a huge difference,” he said.

To live in the new affordable housing complex, tenants will have to go through an application process, Greene said. The apartments are designated for families or seniors at 30%-70% of the area’s median income. 

Officials said they were concerned about the loss of Merry Day Park for recreation or that the housing development could impose on TOPPS next door. 

The city also has land at 603/607 W. Chestnut St. that could be rezoned and considered for affordable housing as well, Greene said. 

The council also approved the use of $56,000 of ARPA funds to improve audio and video streaming of court hearings. 

“It’s about time,” Councilor Glenn Ellerbe said. 

At the meeting, Kathie Brinkman spoke on behalf of the League of Women Voters about changes that will make it more difficult for students to vote in the August 8 election. 

As of January 2023, acceptable forms of voter identification were changed, she said. For both early voting and election-day voting, an Ohio BMV-issued driver’s license or ID card, U.S. Military card, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Ohio National Guard card, or U.S. Passport are the only acceptable forms of identification in Ohio. 

For students registered to vote in Ohio, an out-of-state driver’s license or a statement from the university will no longer be accepted as forms of identification. 

“It puts students at a very difficult decision for what to do,” Brinkman said. 

Brinkman also expressed concern regarding Issue 1 which will appear on the August 8 ballot. If passed, the measure will require a 60% supermajority for ballot initiatives to pass. Now, only a 50% majority is required. 

“Citizen-led initiatives would become nearly impossible to put on the ballot, and extremely difficult to pass if they are on the ballot,” Brinkman said. “We believe the essence of our democracy is majority rules.”

The second reading of an ordinance allowing the Ohio Association of Regular Baptist Churches to connect to city water for the construction of a 92-room hotel was postponed until the next City Council meeting on July 18. No representative of the developers spoke at the meeting.

Oxford resident Craig Erickson, whose property borders the land the potential hotel would be constructed on, said he’s been following the progress of the project since January when he was contacted about rezoning the area. 

“This is a very large project for Oxford,” he said.