Residents Give Input On City Programs

City residents had a chance to voice their opinion on how a little more than $1 million should be used in the city next year.

On Tuesday, Jamestown Development Department officials held the first of two public workshops to gather feedback on the city’s 2019 Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnership action plans. The meeting was led by Crystal Surdyk, city principal planner, and Stephanie Wright, city economic development coordinator, in the Fireplace Room at the James Prendergast Library, located at 509 Cherry St.

Surdyk said the meeting will help determine priorities on how more than $1 million in CDBG and HOME funding will be spent next year. The amount of money the city will receive hasn’t been released yet by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 2018, city officials received $1,158,549 in CDBG funding, an increase of $102,337, or 9 percent, compared to 2017. The city’s HOME funding was $326,751, an increase of $96,520, or 30 percent, compared to last year.

During the workshop, city officials established stations to gather input from the 15 people who attended the event.

One station asked people to prioritize areas of need like housing, demolishing blight, public parking, sidewalk/streetscape improvements and handicap accessibility. Another station asked the public to fill out a survey with the results being used in the city’s action plan. The third station asked people activities in the city where they take friends and family to when visiting from out of town.

“It’s about finding out what people want from this,” Wright said about city officials determining how to use the CDBG and HOME funding.

The city annually qualifies for grant funding from HUD for housing and community development projects. In order to receive funding, the city is required to submit a consolidated plan that outlines community needs and how grant funds will be prioritized. Community is needed as part of the planning process. In the weeks to come, city officials will create the action plan that will be available for review and comment before being submitted to HUD.

Community officials in New York state use the CDBG and HOME funding to address a wide range of needs, which enables local governments to support affordable housing initiatives and expand economic development. The CDBG program provides municipalities in New York with critical funding for transformative and unique development projects and needed funding to leverage outside investment in job creation projects. The funds continue to play a critical role in facilitating local economic development in Upstate NY and helping local governments succeed.

HOME funding is the primary source of funding for state and local governments to buy and rehabilitate affordable housing. According to HUD, the HOME program provides grants to states and localities that communities use, often in partnership with local nonprofit groups or development companies. These communities and organizations then fund activities such as building, buying and rehabilitating affordable housing units for rent or homeownership. HOME is the largest federal block grant provided to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing.

HUD officials have three purposes for the use of CDBG funding. First is to prevent or eliminate slums or blight, second is to benefit low-to-moderate-income residents and third is to meet a particular urgent need for the municipality. The CDBG program stipulates that at least 70 percent of funding must be used for low-to-moderate-income benefit activities, and no more than 30 percent of funds can be used for slums and blighted areas.

During the public workshop, Pete Miraglia, Jamestown Renaissance Corp. executive director, also discussed the Urban Design Plan 2.0. The new plan is an extension of the original that was released in 2006, which won awards for design and implementation. Both plans have been produced by Goody Clancy, an architecture, planning and preservation firm serving educational, governmental and private sector clients and communities.

The 2.0 plan has four main design focuses — the continued renewal of the Chadakoin riverfront; make downtown a more walkable and better connected; recognizing the potential emerging health and wellness district as a vital new component of the downtown landscape; and expand on programs and events downtown that are fun, free and for the family.

In December 2017, the Jamestown Renaissance Center received an $87,500 state grant through the Regional Economic Development Council program to fund the creation of the second urban design plan.

The second public workshop on CDBG and HOME programs funding will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Persell Middle School, located at 375 Baker St, in the library.