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Alternative vet clinic is approved

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An alternative veterinary office will soon be a new business on the corner of Stafford and Union Streets, after Village Planning Commission approved at its Monday, June 8 meeting a proposal to turn an unoccupied house into a small clinic. Yellow Springs resident Robert Swaney, who also owns the Corner Cone, and his wife, Sue Rogers Swaney, who currently operates a veterinary office in Centerville, applied for the permit.

Planners approved the proposal 5–0 after several neighbors voiced discontent during the meeting’s public hearing that adding another business would tend to make the neighborhood less residential. Planners felt that the conditions they assigned to the permit, coupled with the fact that the practice is very small, made the plan a good fit for that area.

The Swaneys applied for a conditional use permit in a residence B district to renovate an existing house and use it as a single employee “retirement office” that serves mostly cats and dogs with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Though the building would be completely rebuilt, its size and footprint would remain the same, Bob Swaney said at the meeting. The couple plans to operate the veterinary office just one day a week for several years while they wind down the practice in Centerville, and then downsize into the Yellow Springs office Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We are not at all the typical veterinary practice,” Swaney wrote in an e-mail to planners. There will be “no boarding, no kennels, no overnight visits…no immunizations, no puppy exams,” and no surgery, he said during the meeting. Rogers Swaney spends an average of one hour with each patient, treating largely arthritis and cancer-related issues, Swaney said. The practice is small enough that all supply deliveries occur by mail, and waste volume is lower than a typical single-family household. Used needles are sent back to the manufacturer in containers made for that purpose, he said.

Planners attached seven conditions to the permit. The permit is nontransferable; curbside disposal of needles is prohibited; rehabilitation of the building will include a new roof, new siding and new windows; normal business hours will be Monday–Thursday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and operation will be limited to eight patients per day, 40 per week; parking will include three spaces, design subject to staff approval; parking screening will be provided; and the required commercial building permits will be secured.

Union and Stafford Street neighbors spoke about their concerns at the public hearing. Stafford Street resident Joyce Robinson, who circulated a petition with eight signatures opposing the permit, had concerns that this business, coupled with the Union School House, the apartment complex and another in-home business at Dayton and Stafford Streets, would pull the neighborhood further toward a mixed use area. She also voiced concern that the business could later be replaced by a more disruptive one.

“We’d like to see Stafford Street stay a neighborhood and not a business district,” she said.

Neighbors Ray Hasser and Jim Weiner had similar concerns. Weiner also pointed out that there were plenty of other available locations that are zoned for a business like this one. And Hasser said there were no assurances that the renovation would be completed, or done to look like a residence.

Sue Abendroth echoed those concerns and expressed worry that the district may eventually turn into a mixed use area, placing the affordable home that she owns there in an undesirable neighborhood.

“It would [serve] to remove that neighborhood as a desirable neighborhood for people of modest means to live in,” Abendroth said after the meeting. “The more those districts lose their appeal, the less choices people of modest means will have, and I think people of modest means should have decent neighborhoods to live in.”

But planners felt that the Swaneys’ previous experience successfully renovating a home on Stafford and Limestone, the Corner Cone facility and their own home on Walnut Street convinced them this renovation was also likely to be successful. There will be just one sign on the wall of the building, and the permit applies to this particular business only and would not be transferable to another owner or another business.

According to the limits of the permit, the Swaneys have six months to start renovation construction and two years to finish, although Swaney said he intends to start the project this month.

Plan board will discuss at its next meeting, Monday, July 13, the approval of its goals, planning items that need to be addressed by Village Council, historic preservation and a potential conditional use application.

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