City MOA Seeks Cooperation from Downtown Businesses

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Youngstown officials will soon circulate a memorandum of understanding to downtown business owners outlining the city’s responsibilities for maintaining the downtown as well as what is expected of the businesses and property owners. 

City officials have been working with downtown businesses to make sure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities, said the city’s law director, Martin Hume. Hume was among the city officials who worked on putting together the MOA, which was approved at Thursday’s meeting of the Board of control.

“The city provides certain services but we also expect the business owners to provide certain services. We expect them to keep their storefronts clean, we expect them to shovel the snow in front of their businesses, we expect them to have appropriate garbage disposal so that the city looks good,” Hume said. “We’re all in this together, we want all the businesses to be successful and we’re best able to accomplish that if we have a clean, enjoyable city for people to come and do business.”

Mayor John McNally called the MOA a "small" but "very symbolic" agreement that downtown business owners will be able to sign "basically to indicate to us their willingness to cooperate with us to keep their storefronts clean, to keep their buildings clean, to keep their trash in the appropriate receptacles.”

The Business Journal reported in its June 2014 edition on efforts by downtown stakeholders to address downtown litter and related issues, including the MOA that was in the works at that time (READ STORY). 

The city’s responsibilities include emptying public trash receptacles, shoveling snow in public areas and street sweeping. “We’re going to make sure that the city is providing the services that downtown businesses can reasonably expect,” Hume said.

“An important function of that is code enforcement,” the law director added. “We want to make sure that the businesses are doing all the things necessary to keep their facades, their storefronts in appropriate order. We want the city to look good all around.”

Although there are city ordinances that can be enforced and criminal penalties imposed for violators, “This is designed  to be a cooperative rather than an enforcement mechanism,” Hume said. “We just want to make sure there’s no misunderstanding.”

The MOA also calls for regular meetings between downtown business owners and city officials to address areas of mutual concern. The most recent meeting between downtown business owners and the city drew 25 participants, Hume reported. Those individuals will be among the first to receive the MOA, and all downtown businesses will be given the opportunity to take part in the initiative, he noted.

 “We really want everybody to see downtown as a positive place to do business, as a positive place to come to frequent businesses, and this is part of that process,” he said.

In unrelated action, the Board of Control approved the sale of 15,250 square feet of property in the 3rd Ward for $152.50, through the city’s land bank program to Fireline Inc., Youngstown.

The city had acquired the land, located in the Smoky Hollow area, for proposed development, said Bill D’Avignon, city community development director. “Since that hasn’t occurred, Fireline realized there’s a couple of parcels that would fit their needs” and applied to acquire the property, he said.  

Fireline is acquiring the land “for potential expansion as needed,” said Mark Peters, director of engineering. There are no specific plans for any project and the company is continuing to acquire land, he said. 

Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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