Village Ponders Zoning

NEW BREMEN — A local village will be looking into expanding its zoning options after holding a public meeting Monday night.

After being approached by two groups — who were turned down — to change the village’s zoning policies in the Washington Street area, the village held a public meeting to hear residents’ thoughts on expanding the zoning area. The village currently has a C-1 commercial area on Washington Street from Monroe Street south to Plum Street, and officials were wanting to look into expanding further south on Washington Street.

“It feels like we’re missing something in that area on Washington Street,” Mayor Jeff Pape said. “If somebody has a small business in their home, Washington lends itself towards that. People who are operating in their house right now, this would give them something that has more street traffic.”

Pape said he wanted to hold Monday night’s meeting to find out residents’ opinions on the zoning.

“We are thinking of keeping the area as it is, yet allowing small businesses that may come out,” he said. “If need be to accommodate this thing, we can make the zoning restrictive enough where if they have off-street parking, that may be in the back of the house.”

A resident in attendance said his biggest concern would be with parking — he noted a spot currently near his home where it is hard to see around the vehicles that park there all day.

“The major issue is parking, we know that,” Pape said, adding the village would look into placing a yellow line or something because it is a safety issue near that person’s home.

Another resident said she was open to the idea — it would have come in handy when she had her home on the market.

“We could have sold our residence three times if it would’ve been commercial,” she said. “Sometimes when you have an in-home business, like with a real estate office, they don’t have much parking there all day.”

Her home, the resident noted, was taken off the market.

“We took it off the market,” she said. “I think the impression is if you have a house on the market for three years, something is wrong with it. That’s why we’re here — we’d love to sell it to a business if they’re interested.”

The resident also suggested looking at each case individually.

“That way you have the power to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to what goes in there,” she said. “If a business is there and they decide to sell five or 10 years down the road, you could decide what goes in there — if they sell, it would have to go back to zoning.”

Dale Grillot, a member of the village’s planning commission, suggested coming up with an additional zoning area.

“Do we need a third type of zoning that is very restrictive — it has to maintain that residential look,” he said. “Do we need something different along 66 — maybe make zoning specific for that area because it is a main thoroughfare, do we do something special for that?”

Grillot said he had a few concerns — alley access for parking would not be permitted, the signage would be very small, there would be a pull-out clause if they closed the business and growth off Ohio 66, such as the residences on Canal and Walnut streets that back up to the possible business.

“I think there’s some way to do something like this to untie our hands,” he said.

Pape noted his concern was if a business went into a house, gutted it, left and then it went back to residential, which would mean more work for a potential new resident.

Another resident said he liked the idea because “for a small business owner, with the high costs of leases, it would be more economical to buy a home.”

Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce Director Scott Frey said he thought the zoning changes would be beneficial to the village and would lure more businesses to the town.

“It would be good for the economy,” he said. “People have left town — there isn’t a lot of space to open a new business.”

He said he liked the idea.

“If we could create more opportunities for new businesses, go through the proper channels and get it set up right, I think we’ve got a good idea here,” he said. “You can do some nice things and the village would become more of a destination for businesses and shopping.”

Pape said the idea would go back to the zoning board, and he noted “nothing would be approved without another public meeting.”

“I feel good about moving forward,” he said.