August 28, 2003


Planners consider new district for commerce parks

The Village Planning Commission agreed last week to hold a public hearing on a proposal to create a new zoning district for commerce parks, which would not allow homes in the district and does not explicitly contain the environmental criteria that the commission tried to present a year ago.

During the hearing, which will be held at the commission’s Sept. 8 meeting, plan board will consider whether to recommend that Village Council adopt the proposal, which was put together by commission member Bruce Rickenbach. Council will have to approve the proposed zoning district before it could become part of the Village Zoning Code.

At its meeting Aug. 11, Planning Commission members voted 4–0 to hold the hearing, saying they were ready to move forward with Rickenbach’s proposal. Commission member Cy Tebbetts, who submitted a memo critiquing Rickenbach’s proposal as well as his own plan for a commerce park district, was absent. The Planning Commission chairman, John Struewing, said that Tebbetts would have a chance to present his proposal at the next month’s hearing.

Planning Commission members have been trying for at least two years to write a new zoning district for commerce parks, a move they believe will help the community attract a developer here to build a commercial facility.

The proposed “Mixed Commerce District” would accommodate facilities involved in knowledge-based industries, emerging technology firms, high-tech businesses and laboratories and light manufacturing and assembly-line operations. Businesses in the district would be structured in a “campus-like setting.”

The proposal says that zoning districts that neighbor a commerce park would be protected and buffered through setback and landscaping requirements and limits on on-street loading and unloading and parking. A building in the district would have to be built on a lot that is at least a half acre.

Retail businesses and other activities “tending to create consumer traffic” would be prohibited in the district.

Unlike previous versions from a year ago, the zoning proposal would not allow residential homes to be included in the district. George Pitstick, Council’s representative on the plan board, said that dwelling units are not compatible with the type of businesses that would be permitted in the district.

The public hearing on the zoning proposal will be held one year after the Planning Commission put on hold its efforts to create a mixed-use zoning district, when board members said that they could not agree on a basic framework for the district, especially with environmental standards. Plan board members had been trying to create a new district that was sustainable or environmentally friendly.

Rickenbach’s proposal does not contain the types of environmental criteria listed in the zoning plans the commission considered last year. His proposal says that the district will “promote environmentally conscious practices,” and says that such things as land uses, buildings and industrial processes that emit dust, smoke, fumes, gas, noise and vibrations, were prohibited. Rickenbach said that he tried to make such prohibitions “declarative,” instead of vague, as, he said, previous language did.

Several Planning Commission members said that they agreed to change the scope of the district because they could not agree on the meaning of sustainability or the enforcement of specific environmental standards. “To capture that in a succinct and enforceable way in the Zoning Code seemed like a difficult thing to do,” Rickenbach said.

Commission member Dawn Johnson said that the board could not provide requirements that had teeth.

Rickenbach also noted that environmental standards are required in construction and building permits and through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Tebbetts’s proposal does allow for residential homes in the Mixed Commerce District. It also includes a section on environmental criteria that features voluntary environmental practices that, coupled with unspecified incentives, businesses and park owners would be encouraged to follow. The requirements could educate businesses in the park “on the value the Village places on protecting our environment,” Tebbetts said in his memo.

—Robert Mihalek