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Planning commission unanimously votes no on rezoning requests

| December 2, 2015

COSHOCTON – A standing room only crowd applauded the planning commission for its unanimous decision not to recommend to Coshocton City Council that property on Cambridge Road be rezoned for a housing rental complex.

The planning commission and residents who gathered for the Dec. 1 public meeting heard a proposal from Kevin Brown and Mike Bier of PIRHL Developers, LLC about how their company would like to build 38 rental units with a clubhouse in the area of 437 Cambridge Road. In order to do that they had to get the city to change the zoning of 4.1349 acres on and around 437 Cambridge Road (former Pretty Products) from M-2 General Manufacturing to R-3 Multi-Family District and 0.344 acres at the southern corner of Cambridge Road and South 12th Street from R-2 One and Two-Family District to R-3 Multifamily District.

The public’s main opposition to the project was that the development would be low income, subsidized housing, but Brown and Bier disagreed.

“Our consultants found that there was a demand here for work force housing,” Brown said. “This is not HUD Section 8, government subsidized or public housing of any kind.”

However, there would be income guidelines for living in the development. A family of four could only earn up to $33,420 and you could make no less than $17,000. Rent for a unit in the complex would be $625 a month.

“For a family of four that is low income,” said Leslie Lenzo McLaughlin.

She found research online that proves that Coshocton County already had more public housing than another other place in the state.

Planning commission member Dan Duren questioned if this new proposed complex would lower property values.

“I would think these attractively built homes would help support home values,” Bier said.

Jinni Bowman from the Coshocton County Auditor’s Office disagreed. She had already seen two properties similar to this hurt tax payers when owners filed appeals to have their property tax evaluations lowered.

“What most people don’t realize is that when evaluations are lowered other tax payers make up the difference in the tax rate,” Bowman said.

She also questioned emphasizing that they were making a $9,000,000 investment in the community.

“The city and the school district are not going to get rich of off this,” Bowman said. “Some money will be collected under the city income tax while it’s being built but after that only a little will be made if there is someone (being paid) to mow or do maintenance work. People moving from one part of the town to here isn’t going to help.”

Rich Pica, who owns a portion of the property PIRHL was interested in, but no longer agrees to have it rezoned, also felt this housing complex is not needed and will not help the community.

“We have rentals,” he said. “Canal Lewisville (the housing complex there) has openings right now. They are actually advertising in Cleveland to try to get people.”

Duren questioned whether PIRHL would be bringing in people from out of town to live in its new housing units.

“You are skirting the issue,” Duren said. “Are you going to bring people into our community that take and don’t give back?”

Bier didn’t think that was a necessary concern.

“There is no reason why people right here can’t live there,” he said.

Community members at the meeting were not assured by that statement and continued to share their concerns with the planning commission.

“If you build it they will come, but if you give people the opportunity to work they will work,” said Rich Miller. “What message do you want to send to the community?”

Tiffany Swigert, whose husband’s job is one of the many lost with WestRock closing, agreed with Miller.

“We need more jobs,” she said. “Using an industrial property for something like this is not what the city needs.”

Bier questioned how much interest there had been in the property since Pretty Products closed, but Port Authority Director Dorothy Skowrunski said this was an important piece of property to keep in their inventory.

“Coshocton has very little industry property for us to market,” she said. “This also could be a good site for something commercial or a clinic or doctor’s office with its proximity to the hospital.”

Skowrunski also said she would hesitate to put residential housing there because the property hasn’t completed all EPA phases to make sure it is safe.

Both Mayor Steve Mercer and City Law Director Robert Skelton asked if PIRHL would commit to cleaning the site up to EPA standards no matter what the cost.

“It would have to be an economic decision for us,” Brown said.

Skelton said he was concerned that if the rezoning was done PIRHL would discover they couldn’t complete the project and back out and then nothing would happen with the property.

“My understanding is that we would have three years to develop the property and if we didn’t the zoning would revert,” Brown said.

Bier and Brown also did eventually explain that their complexes do have a percentage of renters who use housing vouchers to help cover their costs.

“Because of fair housing laws we have to accept vouchers,” Bier said.

Mercer wrapped the question and answer session of the meeting up by asking for a show of hands for people who supported the rezoning. No one raised their hands but it appeared everyone did when he asked who was against the issue.

Even though the planning commission voted not to recommend to city council that the properties be rezoned, PIRHL can still take its requests directly to council at one of its regular meetings, which also are open to the public.

Chris Neal was one of the many citizens at the meeting who applauded the planning commission’s decision.

“This is a beautiful community and I didn’t want to see this happen,” she said. “I just thank God everybody listened.”

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About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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