By Sean Rice
Mercer County Commissioners on Tuesday rejected a plan to rezone 65 acres around Wright State University-Lake Campus to a commercial district, effectively defeating a zoning effort that has changed shape since its inception.
The commissioners also decided against a last-minute proposal to amend the zoning code to change only that governing a 0.9-acre parcel fronting Ohio 703.
When the zoning issue was brought to the table by State Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, the request was to change the definitions in the (SP) special/parks zone to allow a non-conforming building along Ohio 703 to be used again.
The text change would have basically added business and professional offices to the SP zone. SP zones in eastern Jefferson Township include the Lake Campus, Mercer and Auglaize Family Y, Northmoor Golf Course, American Legion and others in that area.
County officials have said almost none of the SP properties have conforming uses. Permitted uses in SP zones are listed as agriculture, floodplains or wetlands.
When the Mercer County Zoning Commission met for a public hearing in February, the proposal was changed from an SP text change to a zoning map change for the 65 acres around the Lake Campus.
Faber, who has a Dibble Road address, informed county officials he intends to purchase the building fronting Ohio 703, near the Lake Campus, and put it to use as a business or professional office.
“We’re taking about substantial financial improvements,” he said Tuesday.
Numerous property owners filled the commissioner’s office Tuesday in the Central Services Building, voicing their objections to any plan that involves creating a new C zone in their neighborhood. The crowd was nearly identical to a crowd that showed up 20 days ago to voice similar concerns.
At that March 18 meeting, several residents complained about the laundry list of businesses that are allowed in a C zone, including bars, gas stations, banks, pet shops and restaurants.
“I think we have to look a couple generations beyond ... we have a responsibility to the property that we own,” Dibble Road resident Bill Mackenbach said. “It’s not about you Keith.”
Faber asked the commissioners for a favorable decision on his last minute request to rezone the property marked for purchase, a 0.9 -acre parcel, to commercial (C). The 0.9-acre parcel is zoned SP and was included as part of the proposal to change 65 acres.
Faber presented commissioners with a letter affirming that a restrictive covenant will be placed on the property deed when he makes the purchase that bars adult entertainment facilities.
After complaints about the possibility of gas stations or other high-impact businesses opening in the future, Faber suggested adding gas stations to that covenant.
Lake Acres Drive resident Jim Dabbelt flatly stated he supports no plan that involves a commercial rezone, and said he speaks for all residents on his street.
Dibble Road resident Frank Snyder suggested creating a covenant that states the property can be used only for business or professional offices. Faber said that would be too restrictive and not enforceable by the courts.
Commissioners briefly considered passing the request to rezone the 0.9-acre parcel and direct the county zoning commission to rework the commercial classification and create a tiered system that separates business/professional offices from general business.
“We thought this was the way to do it today, to change just that one, but it appears unsatisfactory,” Commissioner Jerry Laffin said, before making a motion to deny the request.