Council meets, hears from concerned residents

Angie Talken
Chillicothe News

On Monday night the Chillicothe City Council met and heard from concerned citizens in regards to the zoning of a property located at 420 Martin Street.

On Aug. 3, the council voted to change the zoning of the property - Hope Haven - from R-3 Non-Conforming to MU-1, residents living in the area surrounding that property claim they did not all receive proper notice of the proposed change and spoke with the council at length about their wishes to have the zoning changed back to R-3 - non-conforming. The concerned citizens presented a petition with 25 signatures, asking to have the zoning changed back.

Martha King said she has lived on Clay Street for most of her life and has always “put up with” issues from Hope Haven, but said the dark smoke, large number of transport trucks up and down the road, trucks blocking the roadway and residue on vehicles was unacceptable.

“This is supposed to be a residential area not a commercial area,” she said.

Councilman Wayne Cunningham noted he too had seen issues with the trucks blocking the roadway and a large number of wooden pallets laying outside.

However, he noted this as a hard decision for the council.

Linn St. Clair also spoke to the council, stating she has lived in the area for more than 24 years. Her concerns, while included Hope Haven, focused more on properties she described as looking like a “junkyard surrounded by chicken wire,” and others with old cars and multiple lawnmowers in the yard on various properties around the Martin Street, Jackson Street, Clay Street and Herriman Street area.

“There are debris and junk everywhere commercial and residential,” she said.

As the meeting continued City Attorney Robert Cowherd explained the difference between R-3 Non-Conforming Zoning and MU-1. An area, in the city limits, zoned MU-1 - Multiple Use 1, can include schools, churches, nursing homes, single and two-family dwellings or condos.

Cowherd also stated that Hope Haven owned the property before it was zoned by the city.

Councilman Denny Albertson noted that the council has more control over areas zoned MU-1 versus R-3.

Areas zoned R-3 can include the general commercial establishment and light industry as long as they do not create parking issues or excessive noise and fall within certain size limitations. Museums, parks, playgrounds and non-hazardous warehouses are included.

Cowherd told those gathered that if the council were to vote to restore the R-3 zoning status, it would then “grandfather” in the Hope Haven property and any person or business who purchased that property could operate a similar business at that location. The council, and city, he said had more control over what would or could occur on that property should it be zoned at MU-1.

Several members of Hope Haven’s Board of Directors attended the council meeting and ensured the council as long as the property is owned by that group they will clean up and maintain the area, including the pallets many residents complained about at the meeting. They also noted they are building a new location and the property at 420 Martin, is for sale and not being used.

Brent Turner, board member, stated the agency sent out 39 letters to residents in the area before the zoning was taken to and voted on by the council. King said her household never got a letter.

The council ultimately took no action, and the zoning will remain MU-1.

City Administrator Darrin Chappell told residents that he and zoning staff would be in their neighborhood the next day to look at problem areas and see what could be done to address those issues.

During the meeting, Cowherd and Chappell explained that changes in state laws now hamper and in some cases can make it difficult for a city to clean up problem properties.

In other business, the council voted to approve the reappointment of Matt Lent to the Planning and Zoning Board.

The council also approved setting aside no more than $3,400 in the year’s budget, as part of funds needed to allow an architectural survey of buildings in the downtown area. Kristen Mouton, a member of Chillicothe’s historic Preservation Committee said the State Historic Preservation Officer is offering a grant, to complete the survey. The council approved the earmarking of funds in next year’s budget.

During a council workshop, Chappell noted that the Litton Road project is completed, and the Mitchell Avenue project is on schedule and he expected to be completed below budget by about $7,500.

Pallets stacked up around Hope Haven, located at 420 Martin street. The pallets were discussed as a fire hazard and were mentioned by many residents as being a cause for concern, among many other issues they say they have had for years with the property.