GREEN  A commercial development on Massillon Road, to include a grocery store and a restaurant with outdoor seating, was recently granted conditional approved by planning commission. The project also slipped through the community notification cracks according to six residents from April Drive and Highpoint Drive, who spoke in opposition to the development at the city’s June 27 regular city council meeting.

In addition to concerns that adjacent property owners were not notified of the plans until 10 days prior to the planning commission vote, the residents cited sections of the city’s past long-range land use plans and said the development – in an area zoned to allow commercial office space unless granted a conditional variance – is not harmonious with the neighborhood. 

"I am outraged at the policies that allowed this to happen," said April Drive resident Sandy Cline. "On June 21, planning commission voted to approve a multi-retail complex adjacent to our neighborhood (with) a huge loading dock 150 feet from my back door."

A 15-year resident, Cline said she believes the city’s "policies and procedures" have failed her and her family.

April Drive resident Dough Weaver said he noticed activity on the property as far back as March, when he was told by city officials that soil samples were being taken.

"On June 8, I got a notice (of the planning commission) meeting with (project developer) TWL Development," Weaver said. "The planning commission told us we should have been attending all the zoning meetings and checking the website. We asked them to table this for a month but we were denied and it was approved 3-2."

The residents speaking at the meeting did, however, commend Mayor Gerard Neugebauer for listening to their concerns.

Stating that while this particular situation is largely out of the city’s hands at this point, Neugebauer listed steps the residents could take to formally oppose the planning commission decision – including a formal request that planning commission reconsider the approval, an appeal to the board of zoning appeals, or court action.

Ward 3 Councilman Ken Knodel also suggested any fees associated with such actions be waived for the residents, should they decide to pursue the issue in this way.

Neugebauer told the residents that the city’s planning approval process has remained largely unchanged in his entire time as a public official. Still, he pointed to several procedures the city could put in place to proactively inform residents of future proposed development in a timelier manner. These included going to a 30-day notice and informing residents when a conditional use may be requested by the developer, as well as what those conditions could include.

Medical marijuana ordinance passed

Council passed an ordinance prohibiting the establishment and operation of medical marijuana cultivators, processors and retail dispensaries within the city.

Ward 4 Councilman and Public Safety Committee Chairman Skip Summerville pointed out that council has weighed its options with regard to the ordinance thoroughly.

"There has been a lot of discussion of this over the past few weeks and I don’t think there is anything else I can add," he said prior to the council vote.

Two new full-time positions in service department

Council passed a resolution modifying appropriations within certain funds in order to provide sufficient funding for the hiring of two full-time service department employees. Council President Chris Humphrey said the workers would eliminate the need for seasonal workers in the department.

In a June 22 memo, Service Director Valerie Wax Carr said the full-time employees would be assigned to maintenance duties in highway, storm water and park operations.

Other action

In other action, council approved an ordinance changing the zoning of a 1-acre parcel of land at 772 East Turkeyfoot Lake Rd. from R-1, single family residential, to B-1, general business. A public hearing on the rezoning was held June 13.

Council members also approved an ordinance providing for the designation of underground utilities districts within the city, along with approving amendments to two sections of the city’s codified ordinances to make permanent controls put in place by the current administration related to procedures department heads must follow with regard to spending on projects or purchases less than $50,000. 

Humphrey said the latter piece of legislation represents an increase in transparency between the city and taxpayers.