Board of Zoning Appeals votes 5-0 to overturn Planning Commission decision.

GREEN  Temporarily ending a months-long debate over a commercial development along Massillon Road, the five-member Green Board of Zoning Appeals on Thursday unanimously overturned previous city Planning Commission approval of the development.

At issue are a 22,000-square-foot grocery store and a restaurant with outdoor seating that planners had given conditional approval at their meeting June 21.

Residents on April Drive and other nearby streets contend the development would eliminate a natural buffer between the neighborhood and commercial activity on Massillon Road. They say residents successfully have opposed commercial development on the parcel for decades.

At the outset of the BZA meeting, Chairman Robert Incorvati said the board was not ruling on the validity of the Planning Commission’s approval. Rather, the BZA was charged with determining if there were any procedural or substantive errors made in planners reaching their decision.

Steven Hobson, attorney for the April Drive residents named in the appeal, pointed to city regulations regarding the announcement of public hearings. He said several of these were not included in the notice to residents of the June 21 meeting. These included the requirement that a description of the project size and scope, where public records regarding the project could be reviewed and that public comments and written comments were expected to be included in the notice.

Green Law Director Diane Calta said the notice met the requirements by being delivered within the required 10 days prior to the June 21 meeting, noting the time and place of the meeting and indicating that the topic of the meeting was a “site plan review.”

While the notice did not specifically note that residents could attend, speak or provide written correspondence, Calta said the fact the letter was delivered to them could reasonably assume those things.

Hobson also said the Planning Commission had several legal options for making a motion to reconsider its decision at a July 19 meeting but failed to take them.

The residents’ third argument stated the development itself was not harmonious with the surrounding neighborhood.

Benjamin Ockner, attorney for TWL Development, along with TWL managing partner and Green resident Walid Lababidi and other members of the development team presented evidence that TWL had met all requirements of the city and had agreed to less impactful changes to the plan. These included creating a nearly 100 foot setback from the April Drive neighborhood when only 25 is required, and creating 13 feet of mounding, landscaping and fencing along the perimeter of the development.

Following the BZA ruling, it was unclear what, if any, action TWL would take. Both Lababidi and Ockner declined to comment.