Public hearing gets heated

XENIA — A public hearing during Thursday’s city council meeting turned into an attack on the planning department when a councilman was unhappy with the Xenia Planning Commission’s procedures.

The hearing was regarding a rezoning request for four buildings on North Detroit Street near Shawnee Park. Before public comments were taken, Dale Louderback admonished Planning Director Brian Forschner for the commission’s inability to meet and make a recommendation to council on whether the request should be approved or not.

The five-member commission was down to three voting members when members Sarah Amend and Matt Bennett recused themselves because of a business relationship with one of the building owners. Xenia City Code requires the commission to hold a public hearing on rezoning requests at its first regular meeting after the request is made or at a special meeting. Because of the members’ various schedules, a quorum was not attained despite several tries, Forschner said. So on the advice of Law Director Ron Lewis, the request — made in part by a Xenia area Realtor — went straight to council for consideration.

That did not sit well with Louderback, who said in his eight years on council he had never seen this situation before. He called for a “reworking” of planning and zoning which caught Forschner by surprise. He asked Louderback what needs to be reworked. The planning commission, per city charter, is appointed by city council members and not Forschner.

“You figure it out if you can’t come up with a quorum,” Louderback said. “I don’t think it’s the city council’s job to help a Realtor market his property and I’m a Realtor.”

Forschner responded that he has been asked by council to be business friendly.

“I don’t really understand where this is coming from and why it’s being directed at me,” Forschner said.

Replied Louderback: “It’s directed at you because you are the planning director and I’m a city councilman.”

At that point council president Mike Engle banged the gavel to prevent anymore banter.

The ordinance to rezone the four parcels from O-1 Office District to B-2 Central Business District was introduced and a vote could come at the July 9 meeting.

During the public hearing, the building owners and the Realtor — James Crawford — all said the zoning change would help market the building and secure tenants.

“I’m looking just to help,” Crawford said. “I just see a need in our community for our economic growth. I’m trying to fix a problem.”

Because of the current zoning, there is limited use for the building, located at 482, 498, 508 and 514 N. Detroit. Three of the four are converted homes and a change to B-2 could allow the upstairs portion of the buildings to become residences and give the owners flexibility in the type of business that occupies the other parts.

One building, Crawford said, has been on the market 908 days.

“We need to help the owner,” Crawford said.

In speaking against the rezoning, Diana Steen, who lives on North King Street within 300 feet of the buildings, said the 0-1 zoning was put in place to protect the housing on North King Street and “dozens of families” would have adverse affects from the flexibility that B-2 allows.

Steen also said real estate trends show that there are a lot of buildings with B-2 zoning on the market. She said a random sampling of 15 of 52 listings show buildings worth $31,045,772 are on the market, representing 569,612 square feet.

“This is frightening,” she said.

During the staff presentation, Forschner said the rezoning meets most of the standards consistent with X-Plan and that B-2 zoning is appropriate for the location.

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