By SEAN RICE
An effort is underway in eastern Jefferson Township to change the zoning of 65-plus acres surrounding Wright State University-Lake Campus from its current designation to a commercial/general business zone.
A public hearing is set before the Mercer County Commission-ers at 3 p.m. March 18 to gather comments on the proposed change.
Currently a special/parks (SP) zone, the area under consideration includes the 10 acres where Auglaize-Mercer YMCA sits, a parcel along Ohio 703 with an unoccupied building owned by George and Janis Rafferty of Celina, the 40-acre WSU campus and 15.5 bare acres owed by the Western Ohio Educational Foundation (WOEF). A strip along Ohio 703, west of the Rafferty property, is also included. It is owned by Donald and Patricia Griesdorn, of Connecticut.
The Mercer County Zoning Commission, which oversees eastern Jefferson Township zoning, had recommended in January a change be made in the text of the SP zone classification to allow for better use of the Rafferty building.
The only principle uses permitted in an SP zone are wetlands, reserves, floodways and agriculture. Properties in the SP zones in eastern Jefferson Township include the American Legion, Mercer County Sportsmans’ Association, Northmoor Golf Course and the 4H camp. Recreation and educational facilties are permited in SP zoning as conditional uses.
The original SP text change request came from state Rep. Keith Faber, who resides in the township. If that change were approved, it would allow educational facilities, business offices, public service facilities and recreation facilities to operate in the SP zones without special approval. Faber has expressed an interest in purchasing the Rafferty property.
When the zoning commission met for a public hearing on Feb. 17, members decided to scrap the plan to amend the text of the SP classification. Instead they voted to recommend the county commissioners change the zoning in the area in question to commercial.
Commission chairman Ed Raudabaugh told The Daily Standard on Friday is was his idea to make the change to commercial zoning. Under the current description of an SP zone, nearly all the properties in those zones are non-conforming.
An oversight apparently occurred when the original zoning maps were created, he said, because all of the businesses and organizations occupying the SP zones were already in place before the zoning code was written.
Raudabaugh said amending the SP text to suit the area near the Rafferty building would not help the overall problem with the non-conforming SP zones.
A commercial classification allows for educational complexes and would also allow the Rafferty building to be used, Raudabaugh said.
“I think it makes good sense, to make the change,” he said.
A commercial zone would allow a list of uses, including gas stations, night clubs, day care facilities, libraries, restaurants and banks. Some of the uses that are permitted with a conditional use permit include clubs, bed and breakfast establishments, animal hospitals, group homes, shopping centers, nurseries, wholesale businesses, hotels and adult entertainment facilities.
WSU Lake Campus Assistant Dean Tom Knapke said Friday he was unaware of the movements to change the college’s zoning to commercial, and will be attending the public hearing on behalf of the WOEF. He said Associate Dean Greg Schumn will also be attending on behalf of the campus.
The Daily Standard publisher Frank Snyder is a neighbor of the WSU campus, residing on Dibble Road, and is concerned about the proposed changes.
“If there is a deficiency with the wording ... then address that problem,” he said. “Don’t just do a wholesale change to commercial.”