Educational zone inches closer

City officials are inching closer to developing a new kind of zoning for educational institutions.

The overhaul, reviewed last Wednesday by the Oberlin planning commission, would streamline how Oberlin College and others get approval for routine projects involving lighting, landscaping, parking, signage, height restrictions, and conditional uses.

Planning director Carrie Handy said she would get to approve those kind of projects in an “institutional zone” rather than clogging the commission’s agenda.

She spoke with Oberlin College architect Steve Varelmann about the idea of rezoning the college’s properties.

“We talked about having a separate district for the college and I1 and I2 because the college has a lot of things that our other institution uses don’t have including lots of buildings, lots of different architectural styles, (and) taller heights then most other institutions,” she said.

The proposed draft would allow the planning commission to continue to look at creating two districts within the zone to meet the college’s unique needs.

“The college might have needs the JVS doesn’t have,” said Mark Majewski of Northstar Planning and Design.

He believes rezoning would be beneficial to the college, preventing many trips to the planning commission for sign variances and other small changes.

“It would be worthwhile for everyone involved,” he said.

Member Peter Crowley said creating the new zone would allow the commission to align the city’s vision with the college’s.

The commission is expected to hear from a college spokesperson at its next meeting at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 5 at city hall conference room two.

Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.