Wednesday, December 5, 2012
By Mark Ferenchik
The Jeffrey Mining site, long fallow after more than a decade’s worth of attempts to fully develop it, should see signs of life with the coming of spring.
But the Italian Village Commission wants Wagenbrenner Development to tweak its designs for Jeffrey Park before it begins to build 261 rental units on the northern part of the property at N. 4th Street and E. 1st Avenue.
“We are still seeing things that make it appear a little bit like a development rather than a small urban neighborhood” as promised, said Benjamin Goodman, a commission member.
Wagenbrenner plans to build 12 three- and four-story buildings on the former industrial site north of Downtown. One building will have 80 units; another, 74.
Last month, the commission approved the apartments on the condition that Wagenbrenner address seven items at its Dec. 18 meeting, including breaking up first-floor railings with brick walls and other materials, developing plans for lighting and landscaping, creating a variety of distinctive signs and building alleys that resemble those in the neighborhood.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Radon — the odorless, colorless gas found in Ohio soil — isn’t so invisible anymore.
The number of Ohio homes tested for the gas has skyrocketed the past few years after dropping during the recession.
Last year, 23,494 Ohio properties were tested for radon, compared with 1,464 in 2007, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
About half the tests detect radon levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe limit of 4.0 picocuries per liter.
The result: Radon mitigation “stacks” — plastic pipes typically attached to the side of a house to draw the gas away — are appearing throughout the state. During the past two years, almost 11,000 mitigation systems have been installed in Ohio.
Because most radon tests are done for potential buyers when a house is being sold, sellers typically bear the $1,000 cost to install the systems before the deal can go through.
“For the most part, it’s a free radon stack for the buyers,” said Dan Fenters, a Coldwell Banker King Thompson agent in Hilliard.
Radon testing and mitigation have become so common that Fenters and other agents try to brace sellers for the expense.
“When we’re meeting with sellers now during the listing appointment, we’re discussing it with them upfront,” Fenters said. “You can almost guarantee you will put in a radon system.”
To help spread the word, the Ohio Department of Health has started offering radon classes to real-estate agents.
While homeowners and real-estate agents might be frustrated by the cost and appearance of the stacks, health officials are delighted by the increase in testing, which they say could save hundreds or even thousands of lives.
Radon, which derives from the natural breakdown of uranium in the soil, can seep into homes through cracks in the basement.
According to the U.S. surgeon general, the gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking. The EPA estimates that radon is responsible for 21,000 of the nation’s 160,000 annual lung cancer deaths.
A radon belt stretching from New York to the upper Plains runs through central Ohio, which has some of the state’s highest radon levels.
“In the state of Ohio, more people die of lung cancer than any other cancer,” said Donna Jurden, the Ohio Department of Health’s radon outreach and education coordinator. “We want to focus on what radon is and how it gets in, and ultimately we want to prevent people from dying of lung cancer. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Education, not a rise in radon levels, is driving the huge jump in radon testing, Jurden said.
“There are more people requesting the test in real-estate transactions,” she said. “That’s why it appears to Realtors that levels are increasing. Based on the physics of radon, it can’t increase.”
The percentage of homes testing positive for radon varies from year to year, but for the past 15 years it has stayed between 35 and 58 percent, with no clear trend up or down, according to the Ohio Department of Health, which collects data from testing companies across the state.
Jurden acknowledges, though, that the department has received complaints alleging that testers rig the results to show elevated radon levels, allowing them to then get a contract to install a mitigation system.
She says the department has found no basis for the complaints, but to avoid a conflict of interest, the department strongly recommends that radon tests be performed by a company that does not also install the mitigation systems.
Ken Harrington, owner of Kustom Home Inspection in Delaware, a licensed radon tester, said rigging the test is impossible.“You cannot go in and manipulate those results,” he said. “It is what it is.”
But Harrington and others familiar with radon testing acknowledge that the tests can appear finicky because results can change from room to room and even from hour to hour.
That is why regulators and testers recommend a long-term test of at least 60 days, although they know the two- or three-day test kit is more likely to be used during a real-estate transaction.
“When you do a short-term radon test, you’re taking a snapshot,” said Dan West, owner of Radon Systems in Westerville, one of the state’s oldest radon testers. “Is that indicative of what it will be in a month? No, it has nothing to do with it. It only says what it is during that time frame.”
According to the EPA and a Consumer Reports study in April, the long-term kits are more accurate because radon levels can vary widely from day to day.
After testing 11 kits, the magazine found only two reliable enough to recommend: the AccuStar Alpha Track Test Kit ($28), which requires three to 12 months of testing; and the RTCA 4 Pass Charcoal Canister ($22), which requires two to seven days.
The most common remedy for elevated radon levels is to drill a hole in the basement floor, install a pipe into the ground and run the pipe out of the home along the outside wall. The system is designed to give radon a place to go instead of into the house.
In many cases, a fan is added to the pipe to help draw radon out of the ground.
Such systems typically cost from $800 to $1,200. The cost can escalate dramatically if the homeowner wants to hide the pipe in the home’s walls.
Buyers of new homes in three central Ohio communities don’t need to worry about installing radon mitigation systems. Canal Winchester, Dublin and Pickerington require contractors to install the systems in new homes.
To meet the requirement in new homes, contractors must add a thicker plastic membrane under the basement slab; run a pipe from below the slab through the roof; caulk the seam between the basement floor and basement wall; and install an electrical outlet near the pipe to accommodate a fan if needed. In new homes, the pipes are hidden in the walls.
Jurden, with the state’s health department, would like all new homes to be built with radon mitigation. She would also like to see homes tested more routinely, not simply when a home sells.
“We don’t want that to stop. It’s an excellent time to test. But we want homes tested prior to that, too.”
Fall home sales show no signs of slowing down
Central Ohio homes sales in October were up for the tenth consecutive month. There were 1,964 residential sales during the month of October, a 23.2 percent increase from the 1,594 home sales in October 2011, according to the Columbus Board of REALTORS®.
Homes closed during the month of October sold for an average of $163,925, 10.1 percent higher than just one year ago.
“Even though the inventory isn’t as high as mid-summer, you have more serious buyers and sellers,” said Jim Coridan, President of the Columbus Board of REALTORS®. “Many buyers who had planned to buy before the fall are still out there looking for their dream home.”
The number of new listings on the market is up 12 percent (2,764) from last year and actually increased by 1 percent from the previous month. Total inventory of homes (10,717) stands at 31.5 percent less than 2011.
“2012 has been the best year in real estate in central Ohio since 2007,” said Coridan. “Just because their home didn’t sell in the summer doesn’t mean buyers aren’t still out there; homeowners have recognized the advantages of selling in the fall.”
According to the latest Housing Market Confidence Index (by the Ohio Association of REALTORS®), 84 percent of central Ohio REALTORS® describe the current housing market as moderate to strong and 68 percent expect home prices to remain the same or rise in the next year. They also report that the typical client today is looking for a mid-range home purchase.
Friday, September 28, 2012
By John Futty
The Columbus Dispatch Wednesday September 26, 2012 2:37 PM
A Victorian Village man who said he was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot his partner five months ago has been cleared by a Franklin County grand jury.
John A. Reed, 54, was arrested on April 6 after he called 911 to report that he had just shot his roommate, Jeffrey A. Caldwell, at 69 W. 5th Ave.
“He was killing me, he was trying to kill me,” Reed told the operator.
Although Franklin County Common Pleas Court records show that the case remains active, a grand jury heard the evidence in late July and decided not to indict Reed, Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said.
Defense attorney Terry K. Sherman said he took the unusual step of giving his evidence and witnesses to the prosecutor’s office for use in their grand-jury presentation. Reed testified before the grand jury.
“It’s unusual but not unheard of” for a defendant to testify in a grand-jury hearing, Sherman said.
O’Brien said the targets of grand-jury proceedings testify “on occasion” at the request of a defense attorney or after an invitation from prosecutors. He called the practice “fairly rare.”
Reed had been the victim of ongoing domestic abuse in his relationship with Caldwell, 56, Sherman said.
“It was battered woman’s syndrome, but involving a guy,” he said.
Reed told police that he and Caldwell were in an argument that turned violent on the night of the shooting. He said Caldwell was beating him and he feared for his life.
Reed “grabbed his .22-caliber revolver and as (Caldwell) cornered him in the bathtub, he shot (Caldwell),” according to a report read during Reed’s initial appearance in court on April 9. He was released on bond after the hearing.
Reed retired in 2008 after about 30 years as an employee at the Ohio State University Medical Center.
Caldwell worked at the Kroger store in the University District and formerly operated Caldwell Interiors Ltd.
Sherman called the case “about as good as you can get for self-defense.”
By John Futty
The Columbus Dispatch Thursday September 27, 2012 8:03 PM
An Italian Village convenience store accused of selling bath salts and synthetic marijuana will remain padlocked while a Franklin County judge determines whether it should be closed permanently.
The S&K Market, 127 E. 5th Ave., has been closed since Sept. 17, when the Franklin County prosecutor’s office filed a civil action saying the property is a public nuisance because its owners and operators knowingly allowed felony drug sales.
Environmental Judge Harland H. Hale granted a temporary restraining order that prohibits the store from operating until the case is decided.
The case was set for trial today, but the judge granted a continuance while attorneys attempt to resolve criminal cases against two brothers who co-own the business.
The market, along with two Short North businesses, was raided on July 25 by the Franklin County Drug Task Force as part of a nationwide crackdown on synthetic designer drugs.
Soleiman Mobarak, 29, of Solera Drive on the North Side, and Hasan Mobarak, 28, of Rita Joanne Lane on the Northeast Side, are charged with aggravated trafficking in drugs and trafficking in spice, which refers to a mixture marketed as synthetic marijuana.
Undercover officers purchased bath salts — synthetic hallucinogens that have been linked to psychotic episodes and deaths — and synthetic marijuana during visits to the store, according to the complaint filed by prosecutors.
The suit asks the judge to eliminate the nuisance by ordering the sheriff’s office to “close and padlock” the building and “take possession of furniture, fixtures, equipment and material.”
A new trial date has not been set.
By Mark Ferenchik
The Columbus Dispatch Friday September 28, 2012 12:12 PM
It’s been two weeks since the Goodale Park fountain was turned on.
The water continues to spout. The pond in which it sits is holding water.
All is well. (For now, anyway.)
“Everybody’s pretty happy about it,” said Jason Kentner, the president of the Friends of Goodale Park.
Not to mention relieved.
The water to the fountain was turned on back on Sept. 14. That was a little more than two months after the pond was refilled.
Kentner’s group spent $8,500 to install a rubberized lining around the base of the fountain in June to fix a leak that had drained the pond since last fall.
That came after the city spent $144,600 to line the bottom of the pond in April with a clay called bentonite to plug the leak. That fix didn’t work.
Kentner said the city also installed a new ground water pump to recharge the pond during dry weather.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Central Ohio ends summer with rising sales and prices
(Sept. 19, 2012) Home sales during the most active time of the year showed impressive gains over last year and were the highest since 2007 when the housing market began its descent after the boom.
The 8,921 residential home closings during the months of May through August were 11 percent higher than last summer and 12.2 percent higher than in 2009 when home sales hit its lowest point since the summer of 2000, according to the Columbus Board of REALTORS®.
“Higher prices, low rates and lower inventory proved to be an exceptional environment for home sellers this summer,” said Jim Coridan, 2012 President of the Columbus Board of REALTORS®. “But the strongest factor was and continues to be the abundance of motivated buyers in the market today.”
Demand outstripped supply, as new listings on the market (3,096) fell 0.9 percent from the month before and the total inventory of homes for sale (11,571) was down 32.3 percent from the same time last summer (17,096).
“We’ve seen higher sales gains and falling inventory for over a year now which has pushed home prices up,” Coridan said. “We’re hoping more homeowners with an interest in selling recognize their advantage this fall as it’s getting tough to find property to sell.”
Not only that, the average turn-around time from the date “For Sale” signs went up until a bargain was struck decreased 15.5 percent last month from 96 days to 81 days.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Friday, August 31, 2012
Thursday, August 30, 2012
A tenant of a woman who was shot and killed at her Victorian Village home last night is being sought for her slaying.
Columbus police issued a murder warrant today for Jason L. Stubbs, 35. According to court records, he lived at 1177 Highland St. with Carolyn Cummins, who owned the house.
Cummins, 73, was found shot in her basement about 9 p.m. and died a short time later. A man made the 911 call to police, and witnesses said they saw a man run from the house about that time.
Cummins often allowed people to stay at her house, near 4th Avenue, and she paid people to do errands and tasks. She was apparently seeking a tenant for the detached apartment in her back yard, according to a handmade sign posted out front.
Neighbors said police were frequently called to the house for disturbances. According to police records, officers were called by Cummins at least 49 times since 2004, for trespassing, burglary, theft, assault and damaging charges.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Stubbs is asked to call the homicide squad at 614-645-4730.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Ohio 10th cheapest for auto insurance, 6th cheapest for homeowners
By Mark Williams
The Columbus Dispatch Tuesday August 28, 2012 4:25 PM
Ohio continues to be one of the more affordable states when it comes to insurance costs.
Figures out this afternoon show the Ohio had the 10th lowest auto insurance rates and the sixth lowest homeowner rates in the U.S. in 2011, according to the Ohio Department of Insurance.
Auto rates among the state’s top 10 insurers rose 1.2 percent, the lowest since 2008, according to the state. Homeowner rates among the top 10 insurers increased by 6.2 percent.
The top 10 represent about 70 percent of the market.
By Martin Crutsinger
Associated Press Tuesday August 28, 2012 11:02 AM
U.S. home prices rose in June from the same month last year, the first year-over-year increase since the summer of 2010. The increase is the latest evidence of a nascent recovery in the housing market.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index released today showed a gain of 0.5 percent from June 2011.
The last time the year-over-year index increased was in September 2010. For much of that 12-month period, the government was offering a home-buying tax credit.
The report also showed that all 20 cities tracked by the index rose in June from May, the second consecutive time in which every city posted month-over-month gains. And all but two cities posted stronger gains in June than May.
Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta recorded the biggest one-month gains.
"The combined positive news coming from both monthly and annual rates of change in home prices bode well for the housing market," said David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P's index committee.
Jonathan Basile, an economist with Credit Suisse, said improving home prices should boost home sales further in the coming months.
"Persistent news of rising house prices should start convincing prospective home sellers that it's not just a buyers' market," Basile said. "And when Americans become more comfortable with selling their home, they also become more comfortable with buying another one."
The S&P/Case-Shiller monthly index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. It measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The June figures are the latest available.
The increases partly reflect the impact of seasonal buying. The month-to-month prices aren't adjusted for seasonal factors.
Still, a measure of national prices rose for the third straight month. Home prices jumped nearly 7 percent in the April-June quarter compared to the previous quarter.
The housing market is making a modest but steady recovery in part because homes are more affordable: Mortgage rates have fallen to near-record lows. Housing prices are about one-third lower than at the peak of the housing bubble in 2006. Those trends have helped lift sales of both new and previously occupied homes.
Sales of previously occupied homes increased in July from June, the National Association of Realtors said last week. Sales have jumped 10 percent in the past year.
Builders are growing more confident after seeing more traffic from potential buyers. Last month they applied for the largest number of building permits in nearly four years last month.
The housing market has a long way to go to reach a full recovery. Some economists forecast that sales of previously occupied homes will rise 8 percent this year to about 4.6 million. That's still well below the 5.5 million annual sales pace that is considered healthy.
Sales have been held back by a low supply of homes on the market and tight credit standards, economists said. Many would-be buyers are having trouble qualifying for loans or can't afford larger down payments being required by banks. A Federal Reserve report last month showed that many banks tightened their mortgage credit standards this summer.
Still, the housing market is steadily improving and is poised to contribute to economic growth this year. Modest economic growth and job gains are encouraging more Americans to buy homes.