Oberlin College supports educational zone

An educational zone may appear inside the Oberlin city limits very soon.

Planning commission members directed administrator Carrie Handy on Wednesday to prepare an institutional zone draft to their next meeting for review and approval.

If approved, the new zone type would encompass buildings at Oberlin College and the Lorain County JVS, should the vocational school property be annexed (that process is tied up in court).

College architect Steve Varelmann told the planning commission he thinks the zone would benefit both the city and the college.

“If we could work together to develop the code that takes into account both the city’s needs and the college’s needs then I think it’ll be beneficial to both of us,” Varelmann said. “We’re open to it.”

He said it would take some time to work through the plan with college stakeholders but believes it’s a good time to look at creating the zone because the college is working on a strategic plan for the future.

Varelmann expects it will take six months to year to work through the educational zone with college and city officials.

The planning commission is concerned with having institutional zoning butt up against a residential zone.

Varelmann said one of the biggest questions college officials have is whether to expand the zoning line and what that might entail.

“I think in terms of 100 years when we design,” he said. “The college is growing.”

Commission members are interested in creating two separate kinds education zones to meet the unique needs of the college and other institutions.

Mark Majewski of Northstar Planning and Design encouraged the commission to develop an institutional zone and then later it can work on subtypes.

Commission member Peter Crowley said he’s interested in having college officials present an institutional zone plan with signs, setbacks, landscape, and heights and the commission can tweak it.

“To have a plan completely set in stone for the whole campus isn’t necessarily going to happen,” Handy said. Issues arise that planners may not be aware of today.

An institutional zone draft is expected to appear before the commission at its next meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept 2 at city hall conference room two.

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