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Columbiana residents wary of zone change

COLUMBIANA — Several residents of Springfield Road attended Tuesday’s council meeting to oppose the rezoning of 625 Springfield Road from R-1 to C-2. Previously approved by the planning commission at a recent meeting, the ordinance to rezone the area had to be approved by council as well.

All of the Springfield residents who attended the meeting were worried that the C-2 zoning would allow a commercial use in a residential area.

According to Springfield resident Bill Black, the building, which is currently owned by Salem Regional Medical Center, was built as a doctor’s office in 1981. Another Springfield resident, Nathaniel Church, brought up the question of how a building in R-1 zoning could function as a medical office. Municipal Attorney Mark Hutson said that the answer predates back to 1981.

“That answer predates everyone in this meeting,” Hutson said. “It’s always been a medical office, and it was built in an R-1 district. I can’t offer you an explanation of how that happened.”

Church then mentioned the possibility of continuing a non-conforming use permit. Since the purchaser seems to want to use the building as a law office, it would have a similar use to what it’s been. Church said he would like the new owner to operate under the same variance that has already been granted for the building.

Hutson said the problem with a non-conforming use is that the property couldn’t be changed or expanded. Black said that he could see that being a problem in a commercial area, but that sounds ideal in a residential area.

“I think that sounds great to me,” Black said. “I want that control on my street. If I were in a commercial zone or something like that, I could see bringing in another brewery or something like that. But not in this residential area.”

In June, planning commission gave approval to use the building as office space. So, Church inferred that the only reason to grant a C-2 would be to benefit the owner when they are trying to sell the property.

Since the building was already being used as an expanded office space, the planning commission believed it would be hard to find someone to buy it as a home. Instead of the building being unusable, the planning commission settled on C-2. Between R-1 and C-4, C-2 allows office and limited business. The planning commission believed the designation would make it nearly impossible for the owner to turn it into a big business. The property was originally submitted to the planning commission as a request to be changed to C-4.

“We went C-2 to really tighten down what could go but still make it useful,” Mayor Bryan Blakeman, who is on the planning commission, said. “That was our thinking. I know the man who wants to buy the building isn’t happy that we recommended C-2. He wanted C-4. No one here or on the planning commission is trying to affect the neighborhood.”

Black also cited a dangerous intersection by state Route 14, where there are frequent accidents. He believes another business in that area would invite an unsafe environment.

Residents George Hinerman, who lived there before the building was built in 1981, and Tom and Julie Dorn were also in favor of denying the zoning change.

Councilman Rick Noel, who also lives on Springfield Road, gave his support for the neighbors.

“I have to say I concur with the neighbors on the street,” Noel said. “I will agree that the street is becoming busier and busier, and the intersection is becoming more of a concern. Parts in the C-2 are so flexible, and there are so many different types of businesses that can go into that location. I have major concerns on how it could change the neighborhood.”

Council ultimately voted against the first reading of the rezoning unanimously. The second reading will be read at the next council meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 3.

slendak@mojonews.com

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