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Village Council— Zoning gets more flexible

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Village Council made a host of alterations to the Village zoning code during a special meeting Monday devoted to the current rewrite of the Village’s central planning document. Among the changes made, Council agreed to eliminate the minimum square footage of homes in all districts, permit professional office space as a conditional use in all three residential districts, and prohibit plumbing, electrical and repair businesses in the central business district downtown.

Village Council will continue to discuss additional changes to the code next month before voting to approve the entire zoning code revision sometime over the summer.

Several contentious items arose during the discussion, which was attended by about 35 villagers. Council members did not always agree on the right tack to take, and several items came down to a split vote. The first was minimum square footage for primary structures in Residence A, B and C districts.

Council voted 3–2 to eliminate minimum footprint, with members Judith Hempfling, Lori Askeland and Rick Walkey voting for the motion and Karen Wintrow and Gerry Simms voting against it. Wintrow preferred to maintain the existing code’s minimum building size of 500 square feet in R-B and 900 square feet in R-C, which she said was already smaller than the old code allowed but was necessary to preserve the integrity of the lower density R-A neighborhoods.

“It’s offensive to have a large lot with a 300 square-foot house on it — it’s a waste of land and resources, and I don’t understand it,” she said.

Other Council members did not believe the move would have a negative impact on the R-A neighborhoods and saw it as a way to help residents who are trying to save energy by building smaller homes.

Council continued to discuss changes to the code’s residential chapter, voting 3–2 to add flexibility by making offices and professional spaces a conditionally permitted use in residential districts. Hempfling supported the motion to allow greater land-use flexibility and continue the uses that are currently permitted. Wintrow preferred to prohibit offices in R-A and R-B with conditional use in R-C in order to encourage a more consistent, safer neighborhood environment with less traffic in the residential areas.

Regarding the business districts, though Hempfling proposed to make electric and plumbing supplies service as well as repair shops a conditionally permitted use in the Central and General business districts downtown and by Dollar General, the rest of Council preferred to keep those uses to Industrial-1 districts at MillWorks and the Vernay property on Dayton Street. The current downtown uses, including A/C Service, will be grandfathered in.

For the Industrial-1 district Hempfling proposed adding as a conditional live/work use to allow artists and others to live and work in a studio-like space. Though MillWorks owners said they have had requests for such a land use, they didn’t think that family dwellings were a good fit for the kind of light industry and production activities that take place in I-1 districts. Council also did not have a working definition for “live/work” land use, and agreed to table the motion for a later time.

On other zoning items, Council members found easy consensus. The Community Resources board requested that the Village consider a mixed commerce district specific to the Center for Business and Education to facilitate the gradual division of the property as it is sold to the businesses and commercial entities it was designed to host. Council agreed to withdraw the current zoning of planned unit development (PUD) for the commerce park and establish mixed commerce solely for the CBE.

Antioch College proposed several zoning changes that Council agreed to. The college proposed adding to the Education 1 zone (where both the college and Antioch University are located) permitted uses including general retail catering to the needs of the campus (such as a bookstore or coffee shop) less than 10,000 square feet in size. After some discussion about not wanting additional retail areas to compete with the downtown, but also wanting to give the college the flexibility it needs to be successful, Council agreed to approve small-scale retail as a conditional use in E-1. Also at the college’s request, the Village added as permitted uses in E-1 an interpretive center, as well as offices for executive, administrative, real estate, accounting and similar professional activities. Finally the college asked that the property directly west of the campus and north of Vernay be rezoned from Industrial 1 to Residence C. The college had concerns that a sexually oriented business could be located there and would conflict with surrounding land uses.

Two Cliff Street residents requested that instead of including their properties at the northern edge of the Central Business District that they be zoned R-C, like the adjacent properties. The neighbors had recently built their homes with passive solar elements that require the setbacks of R-C to guarantee adequate sun exposure to heat their homes. Council voted yes on the measure.

Council also agreed to several changes on the Glass farm off King Street. First Council agreed to a request by several neighbors to maintain and formally recognize the conservation easement on the eastern third of the Glass farm. That portion of the property can be used as part of the negotiated green space required for the development of a PUD on the remaining portion of the property, according to word from the Village solicitor. Council also agreed to switch the “underlying” zone of the Glass farm from Residence A to Residence B. Though the property is currently undeveloped, Council hoped that the initial zoning would establish the intent for the property and encourage future developers to choose the higher density of the R-B district. R-B is consistent with the adjacent districts directly south and north of the property.

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