Proposed rezoning of businesses and homes on East Lorain and Orchard streets is designed to make the properties conform with Oberlin’s future use plan, according to city planning and development director Carrie Handy.
She told city council members Monday that rezoning would also make it easier for property owners whose parcels are nonconforming to obtain fire insurance and home improvement loans. And Handy said it would make properties more compatible with existing land uses.
Council conditionally approved the rezoning. Final approval is expected at its Oct. 17 meeting.
Under the proposal, six East Lorain properties would switch from a C-1 central business district designation to a C-2 general business classification. Six East Lorain properties would switch from C-1 to R-1B single-family dwelling district designation and one would go from C-1 to an R-1 single-family district. Six Orchard properties would go from C-1 to R-1B.
An R1B designation allows for smaller setbacks and lot sizes than R-1. It also allows for “home occupations” such as a bed and breakfast or limited use by clergy, dentists, and doctors.
A C-2 designation allows for broader uses and has setback requirements, unlike C-1 classifications. All downtown businesses are classified C-1.
Handy said nonconforming uses are crucial to allowing homeowners to rebuild after fires. If 90 percent of damage involved a nonconforming part of the property, zoning code forbids homeowners from rebuilding.
And if it involves between 50 and 90 percent, a variance must be obtained from the zoning board of appeals. “There is uncertainty there if it was more than 50 percent (damage) whether you could rebuild your house if it was nonconforming,” she said.
Council kicked the proposal back to planning commission members after some property owners complained at an April 18 public hearing that they hadn’t been notified of the changes. Planning commission members sent the plan back to council unchanged.
Council raised no complaints with the proposal except for councilman Bryan Burgess, who questioned whether encouraging having homes across from the noisy industrial park in the 300 block of East Lorain was a good idea. Burgess lives two blocks away and said in the summer he can hear the clatter of machinery from the park. He said it’s noisier for residents living across the street.
“While I know we have to recognize the current use of those properties, it amazes me that it’s stayed residential as long as it has,” Burgess said. “Future councils should consider in land use for that area that single-family residential probably isn’t the best use of that property.”
Leo Braido, Oberlin IGA owner, told council members re-classifying his grocery store at 331 East Lorain St. from C-1 to C-2 won’t affect the approximately $500,000 in improvements he’s making to the store this year and next. Many of the improvements are energy upgrades and Braido said the rezoning supports Oberlin’s renewable energy initiatives.
However, resident David Ashenhurst was unhappy his property at 77 Orchard St. would be rezoned from C-1 to R1-B. Ashenhurst, who wants two of his three lots rezoned C-2, said property owners weren’t notified that rezoning was going forward.
Law director Jon Clark replied that since the planning commission didn’t make any changes, a new public hearing was unnecessary. Public notices are required for public hearings.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.