By Linda Dillman
Following complaints regarding alleged overuse of tents substituting as semi-permanent structures, Canal Winchester City Council unveiled a proposed ordinance to tighten up regulations for temporary tents and canopies.
Council held a public hearing Oct. 7 on an amendment limiting the use of temporary tents and canopies, with a valid temporary use/special event permit, to no more than six consecutive days per occurrence and no more than three occurrences per calendar year.
Consecutive permits are allowed, but the total number of days in the proposed amendment cannot exceed 18 days. The state allows up to 180 days of temporary use per year.
Last April, Westchester residents expressed their discontent with the lack of permanent structures at a neighboring golf course. A zoning variance was granted to construct a shelter house in order to replace a tent used to protect golfers playing the nearby golf course. Opened in 1997, the complex does not have any permanent structures, such as a clubhouse, and operates out of modular trailers. A pole barn houses equipment and the course annually applies for a permit to use a tent as temporary shelter.
An appeal was filed by Corey Berta regarding approval of the Westchester variance, bringing the process to a halt pending the outcome of a public hearing. However, on April 11 the golf course withdrew the variance request due to time constraints associated with the appeal.
During the April public hearing, Westchester resident Jeff Miller displayed a 20-year-old Westchester development brochure illustrating a permanent clubhouse at the golf course. He said he purchased his home based on the map and a related drawing.
On Oct. 7, when asked by council if promises were made to homeowners and prospective buyers to build the permanent structure, developer Charles Ruma emphatically denied the allegation.
“No. I promise you that was never said,” said Ruma.
The developer blamed the lack of a clubhouse – estimated by him to cost between $500,000 to $750,000 – on tough economic times and said if the ordinance is approved, the golf course stands to lose even more money from the loss of outings and special events, potentially as much as $150,000.
“Outings are 20 percent of the business,” said Ruma. “This would basically take away all of those outings. I have a design (clubhouse), but haven’t made a profit in 20 years. We tried to come here for a permanent shelter. It was not accepted, so we’re relegated to a tent. If we have to keep putting it (tent) up and take it down, it would devastate my business. It is an ordinance almost aimed at us.”
Councilman Rick Deeds said citizens frequently ask when the golf course will get a clubhouse.Council President Steve Donahue said people desire a place within Canal Winchester for wedding receptions and parties. He felt a permanent clubhouse would be ideal venue utilized throughout the year.
“It’s not just a structure for 180 days, but something you could use for 365 days,” said resident Jim Bohnlein. “We do not have anything like that here.”
Brian Ritchey, president of a Canal Winchester-based tent company, called the proposed tent/canopy amendment the most restrictive of any the company has encountered and questioned its commercial application.
“We have some structures or tents that meet the building code that would not be allowed (under the zoning change),” said Ritchey.
He said some of the temporary structures carried by his company are rated for winds up to 90 mph.
Council heard the first reading of the proposed ordinance during the regular council meeting.