Akron Council considering zoning issues on North Rose
Following public hearings June 25 regarding a building on North Rose Boulevard zoned as a two-family dwelling, Akron City Council members said they need more time to do research before making a decision.
Property owners Paul Steigerwald and Steven Granger petitioned Council to allow the building they own to continue to be used as a four-unit apartment house, to which several members of the West Hill Neighborhood Organization (WHNO) voiced objections.
James Simon, a lawyer with Buckingham, Doolittle and Burroughs, represented the property owners before Council, noting the current use of the building as a four-unit apartment building predates his clients’ purchase of the building nearly 30 years ago. His clients conducted three title searches over the years, none of which revealed the zoning discrepancy, he said.
It took a fourth title search, which was done recently, he said, to uncover the issue. Once they realized the building was zoned as a two-family residence, they applied to Council for a conditional-use permit to continue using the building as a four-unit apartment building, he added.
The building contains one two-bedroom apartment and two one-bedroom apartments in the main house, totaling 3,100 square feet, said Simon. Additionally, another one-bedroom apartment, which is 550 square feet, exists above the three-car garage.
According to Mike Antenucci, Department of Planning and Urban Development manager in the city’s Zoning Division, the building in question has been zoned for two families since 1922.
Jane Startzman, an Oakdale Avenue resident and member of the WHNO Board of Trustees, said her group’s mission is “simply and foremost to protect the neighborhood and uphold the laws that are there,” and she anticipates similar issues to come up in the not-too-distant future.
“Just because this property owner broke the law for 80 years doesn’t make it right now,” said Bruce Danfer, a Cloverdale Avenue resident and WHNO member.
His clients just wanted to do the right thing by applying for a conditional-use permit, said Simon.
Antenucci said that while the Planning Commission recommended approval of the request, the Department of Planning recommended disapproval.
John Bryson, president of the WHNO Board of Trustees and an Oakdale Avenue resident, said his group has a “zero tolerance for illegal conversions.”
“We don’t believe in the concept that the buyer is an innocent victim,” he added.
Also at the meeting, the Public Service Committee introduced new legislation to Council that would require only city-provided trash containers be used and would raise rates for curbside trash and recycling collection. Existing rates for residential customers who recycle would go from $17.50 to $19 per month, and from $19.50 to $21.50 per month without recycling, according to Service Director Rick Merolla.
Modified fees also were introduced for senior citizens under the Homestead Exemption, raising rates from $9.30 to $10.80 with recycling and from $11.30 to $12.80 without recycling.
Merolla said the increases would help eliminate a $1.8 million deficit caused by the closing of the Hardy Road landfill in two years. The increases also would allow the city to replace outdated trash collection equipment.
Curbside collection rates were last increased in March 2008, according to Merolla.
Council President Marco Sommerville (D-Ward 3) noted his concern about the increase in fees to senior citizens and requested Council take time to see if those rates could be reduced, to which Council agreed.
In other business, Council approved an ordinance authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract with Physio-Control Inc. to provide inspection, service and support for 18 defibrillator/heart monitors used in the Fire Division.
Fire Chief Rob Ross said the agreement is a renewal of an existing contract to service monitors carried on city ambulances, to cost $55,629 and be paid in three annual installments.
Also, Sommerville announced the city of Akron will receive new federal funds from the U.S. Department of Justice to hire recently returned military veterans through the new “Vets to Cops” program. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Akron will receive $1.5 million through this program to hire 12 new law enforcement officers, said Sommerville.
“These funds will enable the city of Akron to hire highly trained, dedicated public servants to keep our streets safe,” said Brown.
According to Brown’s office, all new officers hired under the grant must be military veterans that have served at least 180 days of active military service, any part of which occurred on or after Sept. 11, 2001. The grants provide 75 percent funding for approved entry-level salaries and benefits for three years for newly hired, full-time sworn officer positions.
The next Akron City Council meeting is scheduled for July 2 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, located on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings will begin at 2 p.m., also in Council Chambers.
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