City Council Develops Various Projects
Been wondering what City Council's been up to? Our writer's been on the beat and has the scope.
City Council has some great visions for the year 2011. And these visions are definitely a cause for excitement among the people of Erie.
The Council has implemented programs aiding community development as well as embracing opportunities for economic expansion. If you haven't had time to attend the latest council meeting, here's what's been happening:
Growing a Strong Community
The council has implemented the Weed & Seed program sponsored by the Department of Justice. The website for the Department of Justice defines The Weed & Seed program as, "an innovative, comprehensive multiagency approach to law enforcement, crime prevention, and community revitalization."
"The program started out as a state-run program… funded at a state-level. The idea is to weed out negative components of the community and seed investment, finances, personal time etc. into growing something more positive. The Weed & Seed program is a law-enforcement arm that has an educational and community-building component to it," as described by Erie City Councilman Curtis Jones. Even though the state funding has run out, the program now sustains as a federally funded program. "Few Weed & Seed programs are still operating… we've been creative in finding new revenue sources."
One facet of the Weed & Seed program calls for the improvement of the relationship between the community and the police. Events such as the National Night Out serve as an opportunity for the community to interact with members of law enforcement and public safety "in a friendly way." Non-profit organizations such as community centers, churches and school groups have partnered with the Weed & Seed program to organize programs for children such as martial arts, self-defense, and swimming classes as creative methods of utilizing the resources of the Weed & Seed program to build the relationship between the community and members of law enforcement.
There are many volunteer efforts by various non-profit organizations working to the same benefit as the Weed & Seed program. According to Jones, "the Blue Coats Monitoring program that does school monitoring outside of 10-14 schools… it's amazing because it's like another set of eyes for the safety component but it's also just members of the community who are working and helping the children to feel comfortable and keep them moving to the bus… and also keeping the peace when necessary."
The Weed & Seed program is a dual process because not only does it focus on the needs of children by implementing "prevention" methods, but also focuses on mature members of the community that require "intervention." Jones believes that the people of the community have to realize, "that the community is made up of them and their creativity, it's made up of them and their behavior, made up of them and their ideals. The community is not a separate entity that people are somehow disconnected from. The community is a compilation of the people… all the people in the region."
The Weed & Seed program, paired with the efforts of other programs throughout the city, raises awareness of problem areas and problem behaviors. The program provides the framework for community restoration by "weeding" out the negative components and "seeding" services that will help individuals in need and collaboratively improve the state of the community.
Working on the Waterfront
Another important issue among the City of Erie right now is the Waterfront property. The Waterfront is a valuable property and therefore the topic of its conditional uses is a variable debate. Curtis acknowledged that within the past few years, there has been "a growing understanding that the Waterfront property is some of the most valuable property in the region and even in the country," and warrants "the need to change how that space was utilized and maintain the balance between public access and private development. There have been a lot of zoning changes that took place to make sure … general citizens have access, but at the same time we did not limit development and commercial expansion."
City Council oversees all projects and reserves the right to check in during any development process to ensure zoning expectations are being met. Council also has the authority to bring to light any inconstancies with the zoning requirements. The debate regarding these provisions of zoning ordinances is prevalent within recent council meetings because of projects in the development phase, "Anytime there is new construction or projects done in the Waterfront District, it goes through a process," Curtis explained, "design review and meeting with the zoning hearing board" and discussion at a public hearing. So far two projects meet the criteria and have taken all the necessary steps to fulfill the requirements—new residential housing units overlooking the bluff.
The last step is the public hearing in front of the council and the vote. The requests are for the construction of a two unit residential building at 808 West Second Street and the construction of an eight unit building at 944-946 West Second Street. Other residential units on West Second Street range anywhere from an 800 square foot unit with two bedrooms and one bathroom to a 2,848 square foot unit with six bedrooms and two bathrooms at the largest.
Developing the Port
Another point of interest and something to look forward to is the Inland Port Project. According to the Erie Inland Port website, "The Economic Development Corporation of Erie is spearheading a comprehensive and multifaceted effort to grow the region's logistics and shipping industry." The project entails the development of transportation channels utilizing railways, highways and seaways. With the amount of imported and exported goods that move through the region because of its location, optimum transportation could thrust Erie into a competitive position and drastically stimulate its economy.
John Elliot, chief executive of the Economic Development Corporation, will be at the next City Council study session this Thursday, February 24 at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers, which provides an opportunity for concerned citizens to learn more about the Erie Inland Port project.
Until Next Time...
The next City Council Meeting will be held on March 2 at 9 a.m. with public caucus beginning at 8:30 a.m. Stay tuned for a further update regarding the Inland Port Project after next week's meeting!