Discussion set to continue on proposed Concord Township commercial center

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The site of a proposed commercial center in Concord Township is pictured in February 2024, looking north from Hunting Lake Drive just east of its intersection with Crile Road. Ralph Victor Construction has proposed adding a more than 13,000 square foot building for retail and office space, another building for an additional tenant and up to 94 parking spaces on the site. (Bryson Durst — The News-Herald)

Concord Township’s Board of Zoning Appeals is set to resume a public hearing on April 10 for a proposed commercial development at the northeast corner of the intersection between Crile Road and Hunting Lake Drive.

The development has been proposed by Ralph Victor Construction, which is looking to build a new space for its offices and other tenants. The concept was previously discussed at hearings on Jan. 10 and March 14, and a number of residents turned out to share their thoughts and concerns.

The board will consider two requests from the company. The first is a variance from the requirement that the company leave a 25-foot buffer from the northern property line. Township Planning and Zoning Director Heather Freeman said in an email that the company will be required to leave living trees in that buffer if the variance is not granted.

The second request is for a conditional use permit to allow a commercial center on the property.

The company initially requested two additional variances in January but was no longer requesting them by March.

The proposed commercial center would include a 13,433-square-foot building with 5,500 square feet of office space and 7,933 square feet for retail or other tenants, along with up to 94 parking spaces, according to a document submitted to the township and testimony from company President Todd Victor at the March 14 meeting.

He added that the company would build another building at up to 3,760 square feet if it finds a tenant, like a bank or restaurant.

Victor said that the variance from the 25-foot buffer would be necessary to meet the number of minimum parking spaces required for the proposed development. He estimated that the company would have to remove around 2,000 square feet from the larger building if the 25-foot variance remains.

He said that the company is looking to clear trees to the northern property line, and it will need to grade the space for drainage. It will not construct any buildings or parking spaces within 10 feet of the line.

Victor added that the owner of a neighboring property in a different zoning district is permitted to develop up to 10 feet from the property line. He also stated that there is “hardly anything” in the buffer zone on his company’s property and that the trees are “half-dead.”

A few residents at the March meeting expressed support for the company and the potential development on the property. However, the majority of residents who spoke expressed concerns with the proposed development, including its density and the loss of the trees in the buffer.

Board members also expressed concerns that the developer is trying to do too much with the property.

“This lot, you’re taking six pounds of dirt and putting it into a four-pound bag,” said board member Todd Golling.

Board Chair Ivan Valentic said that the board had not seen examples of “clear hardship.”

Board member Francis Sweeney said that the board is required to apply zoning standards, not change them.

“We’re trying to do too much,” he added later. “Just too much trying to be shoehorned into this. And, there’s plenty of other ways to skin this cat.”

Sweeney also doubted that the variance request met a series of tests known as the “Duncan factors.”

In explaining the factors, Freeman said in an email that “practical difficulty” with existing zoning requirements needs to be shown for a variance from those requirements to be granted.

She added that the Ohio Supreme Court case Duncan v. Middlefield laid factors “to determine whether a property owner has encountered practical difficulty.”

Because there were only four board members present at the March meeting and not five, Victor requested that the board postpone the votes. Township Legal Counsel Bridey Matheny informed the board that he had that right.

Freeman said that if the variance and conditional use permit are approved, the developer will need to submit plans for approval to the township zoning commission and county agencies.

The April 10 meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 7229 Ravenna Road. The township also typically streams its meetings on its YouTube channel.

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