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West Akron rezoning request withdrawn

4/24/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

DOWNTOWN AKRON — In an afternoon Planning Committee meeting April 21, there were strong comments for and against the requested rezoning of a West Market Street property, but by Akron City Council’s regular meeting just a few hours later, the request had been withdrawn.

Council had had before it a request for a conditional use to establish an office use at 1480 W. Market St. and last week had heard comments in a public hearing from neighbors of the property who opposed the request.

On April 21, Herb Newman, the petitioner’s representative, implored the committee to approve the request. He said the south side of West Market Street, on which the property in question is situated, is different than the north side and the Castle Park neighborhood.

“You generally don’t see people leaning on their rakes talking to each other like you do on Melbourne and Beauparc and Castle,” he said. “You might as well be in Kenmore or Ellet.”

Newman stressed the limited business use being requested would be for a business such as a doctor or lawyer or accountant, and the pushback from the neighborhood perplexed him. He noted that 30,000 cars travel on West Market Street every day going as fast as 40 mph.

“You can’t cross that street,” he said. “This is commercial West Market Street.”

Residents Sue Parker and Jennifer Smee, both of whom live on the north side of West Market Street and both of whom spoke against the request last week, responded.

“We knew when we bought our properties it was a busy street,” Parker said. “What we don’t want is for it to be any busier than it needs to be.”

Smee reminded committee members that 62 neighbors — including some on West Exchange Street, to the south of the property, she said, as well as members of the Dominican Sisters of Peace who live on the south side of West Market Street — signed a petition opposed to the request.

Neighbors are concerned about the rezoning setting a precedent for further commercialization of West Market, she said.

“The issue is that there isn’t going to be a family there anymore,” she said. “We are neighbors; we are a neighborhood.”

At the regular Council meeting that evening, Planning Committee Chairman Jeff Fusco (D-at large) requested the item be withdrawn without prejudice, saying the petitioner had withdrawn the request. He later explained that indicating it is being withdrawn “without prejudice” — meaning that Council does not favor nor oppose the request — gives the petitioner the right to resubmit the request within two years without paying the required fees.

In legislative action, Council approved an ordinance authorizing the city to enter into contracts with nonprofit neighborhood-based organizations for the Neighborhood Partnership program. Fifty-five organizations have been awarded a total of $226,000, which is less than half of the total amount of funding requested, said Fusco.

He commented that that indicates the high need for services and the competitiveness among organizations for funds to help neighborhoods.

The Akron Community Foundation has agreed to provide up to $75,000, and the Knight Foundation has agreed to provide up to $25,000.

Councilwoman Marilyn Keith (D-Ward 8) praised the program, saying, “This really empowers a neighborhood to get something done.”

Council also approved a development agreement with CDM Miller LLC for the sale and redevelopment of property in the South Main Street/Miller Avenue redevelopment area in the Summit Lake neighborhood to make way for the construction of a Save-a-Lot grocery store.

The store will provide 11 full-time jobs and serve an area that is in need of grocery services, Fusco said.

In other business, Keith announced that a final push to register for mortgage assistance through Save the Dream Ohio is underway through April 30.

“This is a last-ditch effort,” she said.

Save the Dream Ohio, which is administered by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and funded by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund, works with approved housing counseling agencies to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.

The deadline to register is April 30. Assistance will be available April 28, 29 and 30 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Mason Community Learning Center, 700 E. Exchange St. Keith, who chairs the Housing Committee, asked Council members to help spread the word that even if homeowners have been turned down in the past, they might still be able to qualify.

Save the Dream Ohio can help homeowners bring their delinquent mortgage current, make mortgage payments, reduce or eliminate their principle balance or pay delinquent property taxes or association fees. The average amount of assistance awarded is $14,400.

For more information, call 888-404-4674 or visit www.savethedream.ohio.gov.

The next Akron City Council meeting will take place April 28 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. in Downtown Akron. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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