Retaining two-unit dwellings controversial in West Hill
Akron City Council holds public hearings on requests
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Numerous residents of West Hill attended Akron City Council’s Sept. 17 meeting to debate whether two properties should continue to be used as two-family dwellings.
Residences at 329 Cloverdale Avenue and 345 Crown Street came before Council for consideration of conditional-use permits to retain two-unit dwellings in an area zoned for single-family usage. While already established as legal nonconforming duplexes, the residences had reverted back to single-family use in accordance with Akron law because they had been vacant for two years.
The Planning Department staff opposes the conditional-use permits to retain the two-unit dwellings, but the Planning Commission granted its approval.
Speaking in public hearings before Council’s Planning Committee and full Council, the property owners said they have made significant investments in and improvements to the properties and neighborhood, and that it would be a financial hardship to revert to single-family usage, which would involve extensive changes to wiring and plumbing.
Jon Slifka, co-owner of the Cloverdale property, said he would live on the premises and rent out the second unit. Andrew Levitt, owner of the Crown Street residence, said the units have been occupied by two single mothers — one a nurse and the other a nursing student — for six months. A prior problem tenant was dealt with in an immediate manner, he said.
“When we bought the house, it was nearly condemned,” said Dave Slifka, co-owner of the Cloverdale property, who added his son worked for eight months to improve the dwelling to a livable condition. “We want to make this a nice house.”
Both Jon Slifka and Levitt came before Council armed with petitions in support of retaining the two-unit usage, with Slifka noting he had 130 signatures and Levitt saying he had the support of at least one person from each residence on Crown Street.
However, members of the West Hill Neighborhood Organization (WHNO) had their own signatures opposing the conditional-use to present to Council, and about 10 people attended the meeting in opposition.
Jane Startzman, WHNO board member and a Realtor, said multi-family usage reduces property values in the neighborhood, and a corresponding rise in crime deters single-family buyers.
In 2004, the WHNO worked with the city to rezone the neighborhood for single-family use, and she urged Council to “uphold the law that we all worked together to put on the books for good reason.”
She and fellow WHNO board member Nancy Smith said density is a problem in West Hill.
“We’re trying to equalize and stabilize the density,” Startzman said.
“We can’t have amnesty for people,” Smith said. “We’re trying to uphold the law.”
Council requested time on both ordinances. Planning Committee Chairman Jeff Fusco (D-at large) asked Council members to drive by and look at the dwellings before it comes time to vote.
In other business, Council approved a conditional-use permit for the construction of a Dollar General store at 901 Copley Road, on property where an existing church will be demolished.
Council also approved a contract with A-T Solution Inc. for the $29,505 purchase of software called Easy Street Draw for the reporting of traffic crashes. Sgt. Rick Schmahl, of the Akron Police Department, said the software has been in use for three years, but with a new enterprise agreement, it could begin to generate revenue with the inclusion of additional law enforcement agencies.
The next Akron City Council meeting will take place Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.
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