by STEVE WIANDT | REPORTER
Cuyahoga Falls -- An auto towing business is one step closer to moving here from Stow after the city's Planning Commission voted unanimously Nov. 6 to grant Joe's Auto a conditional zoning certificate.
Vincent Bowen, the owner of Joe's Auto on Darrow Road in Stow, is planning to build a 2,800-square-foot building and an 11,000-square-foot fenced impound lot at 488 E. Steels Corners Road, said Fred Guerra, the city's planning director. The 1.813-acre property is owned by James and Jean Thompson, who operated a construction business there until they retired several years ago, Guerra said.
The Thompsons' property is zoned E-1 Employment, Guerra said "Automobile repair is an allowed use in E-1 districts and tow/impound lots are allowed with a conditional zoning certificate," he said.
A house used for offices and a 2,400-square-foot storage building still stand on the vacant property, said Guerra. Located near the Stow border, the property is bordered to the north by vacant wetlands, to the south and east by vacant E-1 land, and to the west by a First Energy electrical substation.
Based on the site plan prepared for Bowen by architect David Pelligra, the project meets all city criteria, Guerra said.
The proposed building will meet all code setbacks and design standards required by the city, he said, adding all vehicles will be parked within the building and the fenced-in impound lot. Guerra noted that there will be no disassembly or salvaging of vehicles on the site.
"It's not a junkyard," he said. "Junkyards are not allowed in Cuyahoga Falls."
Pelligra asked members of the Planning Commission to consider Bowen's original plans which would avoid the demolition of the house and face garage bays toward West Steels Corners Road, but would violate the city's General Development Code.
During discussion, all but one member of the Commission was against approving the original plan. Commission Member Mary Myers said she believed facing the bays toward the street would be "good advertising" for the business.
Neighboring property owners Sam Raja and Bernie Mason spoke out against the conditional use permit. Both said an impound lot would negatively affect their property values. Mason owns B&B Towing on State Road.
Ward 8 Councilman Terry Mader (R) said he was in favor of the project as well as "sticking to the code."
Over the summer, Bowen had expressed interest in buying a half-acre property on Kent Road in Stow, a real estate agent told Stow City Council July 12. During that meeting, Stow Council denied a request to rezone the property from C-6 Office to C-3 Community Retail.
The property has two vacant buildings: one where Brandon Heating used to operate; the other that originally housed a Red Barn restaurant and has been partially converted for office use.
The conditional zoning certificate approved by the Planning Commission will next go before City Council for consideration.
Stow Sentry reporter Holly Schoenstein contributed to this article.