Apartment rules for commercial buildings updated


City council tweaked the language again on three proposals to allow apartments on upper floors of commercial buildings as a permitted use then voted 5-0 Wednesday to approve the ordinances for C1, C2 and C3 commercial zones on final reading.

What that means is building owners no longer have to get a conditional use permit approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals during a public hearing to have an apartment on a second floor or above as long as they follow all local, state and federal codes. The language does require written notice to the city Planning & Zoning Office of the intent to use a property as a residence on the upper floor, before anyone can occupy the space.

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who guided and spearheaded the legislation as chairman of the Rules & Ordinances Committee, said the Planning Commission had been concerned that there was no mechanism for notifying planning or the fire department, which would have to do a safety inspection. That’s why the language was changed.

The proposal had first reading by council in February, then Planning Commission discussed the idea and asked for revisions and it came back again to the Rules & Ordinances Committee, then had a second reading before council in September. The law director rewrote some of the language and that’s why Dickey had council approve the changes before voting for passage. Residential use will also require an occupancy license, too.

Councilman Geoff Goll offered his thanks to Dickey for everything she did to get the ordinances through the process. He said she worked diligently to allow the permitted use for commercial property downtown. Downtown properties already had the power to put in apartments in upper floors in their buildings, but they had to go through the Board of Zoning Appeals and this takes that requirement away, making it a little easier.

In other business, Mayor John Berlin told council that the money was sent to purchase the building on Oak Street for the parks department. He also said he was told about money in a property purchase account that could be used to pay off the debt for the park department’s portion of the building cost. He asked that it be addressed in a Committee of the Whole meeting, which Dickey agreed to set for 6 p.m. Dec. 4. The agenda will also include the SAFEbuilt proposal for building department services, which had been discussed prior to the council meeting.

Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart invited council members to attend a special meeting of the Utilities Commission at 2 p.m. Nov. 15 for a review of the Salem water treatment plant optimization study that was recently completed by PMG Consulting. He said the plant was last updated in 1992 and there have been lots of changes in regulations since then for maintaining water quality. The special session will precede the regular meeting of the commission set for 4 p.m. Nov. 15.

Other meetings announced for council committees included: Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks, 6:30 p.m. Nov. 14, regarding engineering for next year’s streets project; Economic Development, 6 p.m. Nov. 20, regarding tourism board and the trolley and a quarterly review of Sustaintable Opportunity Development Center economic development activities; Utilities, following Economic Development, Nov. 20, regarding annual bidding for chemical products; and Rules & Ordinances, 6 p.m. Nov. 27, regarding downtown zoning uses and boundaries.

Councilmen Roy Paparodis and Andrew Null were both excused from the council meeting.

Goll offered thanks to all veterans in the community as Veterans Day approaches and Dickey reminded residents that leaf bags are available for free at city hall. She also offered condolences to the families of David Bricker and Evelyn Strausbaugh. She used to work with Strausbaugh at the hospital years ago.

The next council meeting is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 20.