WAC debated zoning change

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The Westland Area Commission approved a request for rezoning a piece of property along Norton Road so a woman can turn a house into a restaurant and real estate office, but not before the petitioner was brought to near tears by the extreme questioning.

With the approval of rezoning 259 Norton Road from LR2 (Limited Residential) to LC1 (Limited Commercial), Emily Bibyk will now go to the Development Commission of the City of Columbus with the request.

The house is on an island of land in the City of Columbus. Property on either side of the house is in Prairie Township. It is two parcels south of the school “and I’m too close to the school to serve alcohol,” Bibyk said of her plans for the family restaurant which will be operated by her, her husband and their four children.

Bibyk, a realtor who purchased the house three years ago with intentions of turning it into a commercial business, plans to convert the street level part of the multi-level building into a restaurant with five four-person tables; use the upper level for her real estate business and the half basement for storage.

During a zoning committee hearing prior to WAC’s Aug.15 meeting, her request was amended with conditions. Among them are hours of operation from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., a stone and brick foundation for the fence to match the building, and a limit of 18 feet on exterior lighting.

Doug Moshier cast a negative vote on the six-member zoning committee after Bibyk failed to answer how she would handle accessibility to the second floor. A question by Moshier of what she would do if she hired an employee in her real estate business who had a disability went unanswered. However, she did say that she would have two restrooms on the main level, one of which has to be extra wide to accommodate people with disabilities.

The request went to the full commission after gaining approval in committee. Jamie Mueller wanted to know what her budget was too prepare for opening and Bibyk said she estimates it will cost $30,000 for the parking lot and her kitchen, which she considered the biggest expenses.

Mueller then launched into limitations for the request and raised questions of why it wasn’t a request for commercial.

“I think a C1 is the way to go,” he said. Bibyk countered, “I’m not big enough” and said she has a housing subdivision behind her. “That’s why you put the L in front of the C,” she said.

Mueller then branched into questions about the development plan that stymied Bibyk. At one point she said, “It appears to be a personal attack on me.”

Mueller assured her it wasn’t and she responded “I won’t harm anyone.”

As tears began to well up, Bibyk left the room, leaving her husband George to answer questions. She returned, refreshed, a couple of minutes later.

When questions continued along the line of the Westland Plan for future development and the status of that document, WAC president Mike McKay called for a vote on the rezoning issue. It won by a 5-2 vote with Moshier and Mueller casting the two negative votes.

Questions about the Westland Plan spilled over into the rest of the meeting with Secretary Patricia Brown, who serves as planning and development chairman, offering to resign her chairmanship and turn it over to Mueller.

Her reasoning was that she works as a receptionist “and I’m not qualified. Nothing is getting done. I’ve tried to have meetings (of her committee) and everyone is busy. I have a vision but I don’t know where to start.”

McKay reminded her, “Everyone (on the commission) is a volunteer.”

The Westland Plan, which looks at future development, was written in 1994 and updated about four years ago. McKay said fine tuning it was put on hold because of the Darby Accord.

“I think it is time we ask the city to resume work on updating the Westland Plan,” he said.

Although McKay refused to accept Brown’s resignation, he did agree to let Mueller, a businessman and a realtor, serve as co-chair.

Recreation and Parks Chair JoEllen Locke advised members to make themselves visible at City Council meetings as one way to help get the proposed family recreation center into the 2008 bond package. She proposed setting up a schedule of City Council meetings and having a rotation schedule so one person doesn’t always have to go to the meeting.

That suggestion drew several comments of “I’ll go to a meeting,” and McKay mentioned he had seen a newspaper photo from a City Council meeting where a seat set aside for WAC was vacant.

Locke also advised members to take the bicentennial survey on the City’s Web site. Columbus will be celebrating 200 years in 2012 and a survey has been set up at www.columbus.gov/columbus2012.

The next WAC meeting is for 7 p.m., Sept. 19, in Rooms A and B on the first floor of Doctors Hospital, 5100 W. Broad St. Meetings are open to the public.

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