East End zoning tweaks, new UDF gets OK

MIDDLETOWN — A sweeping reworking of the city’s East End zoning was approved Wednesday evening, April 12 by the planning commission.

The 6-1 vote follows months of public hearings and debate among commission members over various aspects of a proposed Business Center zoning district and subdistricts.

Commission member Jack Wolf, the lone dissenter, said in all of his years with the city, he cannot remember “being lobbied more strongly than this on both sides of the issue.”

“Ninety-five percent of this zoning is wonderful, is well-thought-out, well-planned and will be great,” Wolf said. “In my heart of hearts, I don’t think this is necessarily the best way to retain or attract small business. And I’m a firm believer that small business will rebuild our economy.”

Planning Director Marty Kohler said the amendments are intended to expedite the process of granting zoning approvals for projects that meet new guidelines.

The approved legislation created a handful of new zoning districts, in keeping with recommendations outlined by the Renaissance District Master Plan, according to Kohler.

The amendments will come before City Council in June.

Vice Mayor Anita Scott Jones, who serves as a representative on the commission, said she anticipates many of the same issues to crop up next month.

“We have to give everybody fair representation to present to us their concerns,” Jones said. “At the end of the day a decision will be made. Somebody will be happy, somebody won’t.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, the commission also:

• Unanimously granted a conditional use permit for the construction of a new United Dairy Farmers gas station at 106 N. Clinton St. The new UDF store will replace the company’s current downtown location, with more than twice the retail space and 10 gas pumps. City Council will have to give final approval.

• Approved the demolition of the Middletown Animal Hospital, 3615 Grand Ave., and an adjacent single-family home to allow the construction of a new veterinary hospital on the same site. As a veterinary clinic is a lawful non-conforming use in the low density dwelling district, it required approval from the commission in order to be rebuilt. Representatives with the project said the expanded facility should support the hiring of two to three new veterinarians and as many as 10 new staff members.

• Moved to alter the regular procedure for conditional use requests, eliminating the step of having City Council review conditional use permits after the Commission holds a public hearing. The change reduces the review timeframe from 12 weeks to as little as three weeks. City Council will have to give final approval on this recommendation.

Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2871 or rgauthier@coxohio.com.