GREEN  A recent vote by the Board of Zoning Appeals to confirm an appeal made by residents on April Drive to stop a retail project is raising questions about the future of development in the city of Green.

A proposed development on 7.84 acres of land on the west side of Massillon Road near Graybill Road would have brought a grocery store, a restaurant and fast-food places. Residents on April Drive, however, didn’t want the development in their backyards. They hired an attorney and took the issue to the Board of Zoning Appeals, which voted 5-0 in favor of the appeal. The project, originally approved at the June 21 Green Planning and Zoning Commission, has raised plenty of concerns.

History of the land

The site, located just south of the YMCA, has been eyed by several developers through the years, but residents have fought retail development. In 1994, an attempt was made to rezone the land, which is zoned for commercial office, but city officials thrwarted it. Then in 1996, Acme tried to rezone the land but the Planning Commission denied it. A citywide election was held in 1996 about whether to rezone the land and the majority of citizens voted "no."

Prior to the vote by the Board of Zoning Appeals last week, Renee Reale stressed that the area needed to remain a transitional buffer area as it was intended to be.

“We ask you to please say no to this proposed strip mall and to say no to more traffic, more crime, more pollution, more retail and more noise on Massillon Road,” Reale told the board.

Fight against retail

Drive around Green and signs that read “STOP INVASIVE RETAIL” line several yards. Sandra Cline and her husband who live on April Drive are behind the signs. They also have T-shirts and a Facebook Page called Fix Green Ohio Zoning.

“The reason we labeled that page that way is because it is not just about April Drive,” Cline said.

The page, which has 219 followers, gives people quick access to information, Cline said. She said city meetings can get long and the page offers a summary of what has gone on.

Cline is pleased with the decision by the board to stop the retail project and said it has been a long process.

“We felt we never had an opportunity to sit down at the table,” Cline said. “Now we feel like we have had that opportunity.”

Rocco Yeargin, who is running for the Ward 3 council seat and lives in the April Drive neighborhood, said he got involved because of the importance of the issue not only to him but his neighbors.

Yeargin applauds the Board of Zoning Appeals for putting the residents first.

Susan Ridgeway, who is also running for the Ward 3 seat, was thrilled and relieved with the decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals to, in her opinion, put the rights of the citizens before that of outside developers.

Councilman Bob Young also believes the Board of Zoning Appeals' decision was correct.

“The developer didn't do anything wrong and I don't believe he intentionally stretched our code,” Young said. “Maybe the city needs to take a harder look at our planning board and change the process of notifying our residents of a new development.”

Young, however, added that this specific case could be continued through the courts.

Homeowner Nina Biscan, who has lived on April Drive since 1993, is on opposite side of April Drive and is not directly affected by the project, but she still wanted to get involved and help her neighbors. Biscan helped Cline with the signs to help lead people to the Facebook page.

“Buying a home is one of the largest investments you make in life,” Biscan said.

Making changes to the code

When the city made changes in 2009 to allow conditional uses in areas that are zoned B-2, Yeargin said he he believes many people didn’t even know the change happened.

Ridgeway, who was serving on council at the time, voted no to the change.

“When the code was updated in 2009, when I sat on council, and I asked for the history of the code, and how it was changed from the old code, I was ignored, and this is why I voted no on 2009-21,” Ridgeway said. “There is no reason for a B-2 zoning district to have the conditional uses allowed by the newer code. This needs to be changed and council should draw up legislation immediately to prevent this from happening again, because it will, in the same spot, or some other spot in our city.”

Biscan said there needs to be changes to the code moving forward.

“Conditional uses are very deceiving at a glance,” Biscan said.

Cline and Yeargin say there needs to be changes to the zoning code.

“As we are growing the issue is likely to repeat itself,” Yeargin said. “We need to grow in a smart way and have a buffer for neighborhoods.”

As Yeargin has been out campaigning, he said the zoning issues are on a lot of people’s minds. He said he also hears a lot that residents don’t want Green to become a "Montrose or Belden Village."

Ridgeway also wants to see a collective effort to make changes to the code.

“Our codes need to be updated by a collective group of consultants, city staff and interested homeowners not just by our planning director,” Ridgeway said.

As far as the project on Massillon Road, the developer may take the case to common pleas court or it can come up with a new plan and bring it through the process of approval again.

Cline hopes the developer doesn’t go back to the drawing board with the property near her house. She plans to start attending city council and start pushing for legislation to change the zoning codes.