by Jeremy Nobile | Reporter
Stow — A decision on whether to approve a proposed amendment to the city’s zoning code that could ultimately enable the Marhofer Chevrolet dealership to expand at its current location won’t be reached by City Council until early next year at the soonest.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Mary Bednar said, at a Nov. 12 meeting of Council committees, that the zoning amendment — which would change the dealership located at Kent and Darrow roads from a legal non-conforming use in the city’s C-3 Community Retail District to a conditionally permitted use — can’t be approved without two readings by Council, followed by a public hearing and a final Council reading.
“This is not something that is going to happen overnight,” she said.
However, that didn’t stop a couple of attorneys and residents last week from saying why they are for or against the change, which would conditionally permit truck, boat and auto sales and rental businesses in all C-3 Community Retail and C-4 General Business zoning districts, in addition to the C-5 Highway Services zoning districts where those businesses are already allowed.
The proposed amendment includes revisions to the requirements for conditional uses in commercially zoned districts for auto, boat and truck sales and rentals, such as increasing the minimum lot area from 40,000 square feet to 2 acres — more than double the current requirement — and the minimum lot width from 120 feet to 300 feet. Planning Director Rob Kurtz said the purpose of the increases is so there will be minimal impact to surrounding residential lots.
The changes would also add new regulations for how such dealerships permitted in C-5 districts do business and can use their property, including prohibiting loud outdoor speakers and requiring all portions of a dealer’s property used for sales or storage of vehicles to be paved, among other regulations.
Some locals, like Thorndale Avenue residents Allyson and Doug Burley, who have been represented in Council meetings by attorney Michael Gordon, said they understand Marhofer wants to expand down their street by potentially purchasing and tearing down three homes. The Burleys have said they are against the zoning amendment and the business’ expansion into Thorndale as they believe it may adversely affect the neighborhood’s aesthetics and property values.
Another resident said he was against the zoning change because of how it could enable similar dealerships conforming with the increased lot requirements to expand, potentially harming neighborhoods around those areas.
Kurtz has said there are about 30 locations in the city that would fall under the parameters established by the proposed zoning amendment, mostly all of which are near major intersections similar to those at Steels Corners Road and Hudson Drive or Graham and Fishcreek roads. Any major business renovation or expansion requires its own zoning approvals, though, which means any changes would still have to come before city officials.
Through attorney John Slagter, Ron Marhofer of Marhofer Chevrolet originally requested that the city’s zoning code text allow auto sales businesses in C-3 districts. Kurtz has said that because auto sales businesses already are permitted in C-5 districts, the city has requested that they be permitted in C-4 districts as well.
Slagter has said remaining a non-conforming use is detrimental to the business because of the restrictions attached to that designation, which prevent the dealership from reopening if it goes out of commission for six months in the event of some unforeseen circumstance like a fire or union strike.
Slagter noted the restrictions attached to a non-conforming use also include a cap on how much a company can invest in physical renovations — improvements cannot exceed a non-conforming property’s tax-assessed value. According to Summit County property tax records, the Marhofer property currently carries a tax-assessed value of $637,470.
Some residents have said they’re concerned the zoning change would ultimately allow Marhofer to move into residential areas, such as the neighborhood on Thorndale. However, Kurtz noted, any property owner would have to elect to sell their property to the company, and if that property is residential, Marhofer would still need to have the property it sought to expand on to appropriately rezoned from residential use to the proper commercial use for consistency before any work takes place.
The zoning amendment was given its first reading Nov. 15. A second reading is slated for the Dec. 13 City Council meeting. A public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 7 in Council chambers.
Phone: 330-541-9400, ext. 4179