The German Village Society has reached an agreement with Columbia Gas of Ohio regarding the relocation of gas meters within the district as part of Columbia Gas’s pipeline upgrade project. We are proud to have a new partner is preservation!

Read the settlement here. Briefly, it outlines that when meters are moved outside, preference should be given to locating meters in the rear of a building, and Columbia Gas will encourage customers to include the Society in its meter relocation conversations so that the Society may offer input regarding historic preservation.

This is a win for our national-preservation-standard-bearer neighborhood!

Rear facades as the preferred location for all gas meters answers both concerns posed by the Society in its formal complaint. First, we are in full agreement with Columbia Gas that public safety is our number one priority and feel strongly that preference for placement of gas meters on rear facades accommodates the unique attributes of German Village, specifically our narrow streets and alleyways. These narrow public throughways, occasionally accompanied by inconsistent curbs, often include reduced set-back distances for some of our homes and businesses. Rear façade location for gas meters may assist homeowners in reducing the gas meters’ proximity to vehicular traffic.

Secondly, gas meters located at the rear won’t be visible from the public throughway. This is in compliance with preservation standards recognized at both the state and national level. National preservation standards address what is referred to as the primacy of the facades. This term is used to describe the priority of retaining the architectural and historical integrity of those aspects of structures visible from public throughways in historic districts. In essence, the front façade is considered the most sacred.  German Village Society is satisfied with the way the agreement prioritizes location of gas meters on the rear, which will, in the majority of cases, render the gas meters invisible from public throughways.

Here’s a brief review of how we got here:

  • After months of one-on-one dialogue with Columbia and two rounds of informal mediation at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, German Village Society filed a formal complaint against Columbia Gas with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on May 22, 2017.
    • At issue was the relocation of gas meters by Columbia Gas to exterior facades viewable from public throughways throughout the National Register of Historic Places listed district. Such relocation violated preservation standards within the district. In addition, given that the district was originally platted to accommodate horses and carriages, not automobiles, the Society was concerned with the proximity of exterior gas meters to vehicular traffic and other documented external safety risks.
  • Also in May, GVS’s attorneys filed a request in Common Pleas Court to temporarily halt the work along City Park Avenue until PUCO could decide the case.
    • The action wasn’t successful.
  • Throughout June and July, German Village Society led a grassroots campaign to get Columbia’s and PUCO’s attention, including petitions to the governor and mayor; yard signs; adding property owners’ names to our complaint; educating residents, other neighborhoods, legislators and Councilmembers about the case; and adding letters of concern to the PUCO docket.
    • Boy did you, as visionary preservation advocates, respond!
  • On August 22, we sat down again with Columbia Gas at the PUCO in a formal mediation to see if we could work out a settlement.
    • It was inconclusive.
  • On September 11, Columbus City Council passed a resolution in support of historic districts and the economic and quality-of-life drivers that we represent for the city.
  • On September 29, a breakthrough to agreement.
    • Pending the approval of the PUCO, the settlement agreement gives preference on behalf of both Columbia Gas and The German Village Society to rear facades as the exterior location for all gas meters requiring relocation within the boundaries of the German Village Historic District.

If the PUCO accepts the agreement, and we feel confident it will, then we also have that body’s enforcement mechanisms if needed.

But we know we are beginning a true partnership with Columbia Gas – and they’ve shown us that not only in accepting the primacy of the façade, but in helping us invest. As part of our settlement with Columbia Gas, we will have the opportunity to leverage our existing sidewalk grant program to improve sidewalks in the path of Columbia upgrades.  Columbia Gas is required to put back sidewalks, curbs and roadways as they found them. But this agreement goes one better. By working with GVS and property owners, Columbia will contribute to the cost of sidewalk repair alongside GVS dollars to impact the neighborhood’s pedestrian walkways as they go!

We appreciate the sensitivity Columbia Gas has demonstrated via this settlement to maintaining the historic integrity of German Village. As the oldest historic district in Ohio, the success of the district to date, and going forward, is intimately tied to our ability to retain those attributes of the village determined to be contributing to our status as a nationally significant cultural asset. The vigilant maintenance of our preservation standards ensures that the legacy of those immigrants who originally built our cherished neighborhood, the hard work and diligence of those who took a risk, picked up a shovel, a paintbrush or a hammer and began the restoration of it, will be protected for all future generations.