Whitehall tutoring center gets no vote; appeal likely

The Whitehall Board of Zoning and Building Appeals met July 2, and gave Village Network a thumbs down to provide tutoring services at 4450 Poth Road.

It is the latest setback for the agency, previously operating as Boys Village, to find a home on the eastside.

They had sought to move from their Gahanna location into the school building at St. Philip the Apostle Church on Elaine Road. Neighbors expressed concern because some of the young clients had been referred because of sex charges. Delays in receiving zoning approval from Columbus finally prevented the move.

Last year Village Network, which is a provider of clinical services for children through 18 years of age, moved into the former Kroger warehouse building. They negotiated with Development Director Matt Shad, and received a temporary occupancy permit.

The area is zoned for light manufacturing, warehouses and wholesale businesses, and it was determined by Environmental Judge Harland Hale that the location can be used for administrative offices and clinics; however, Village Network also was providing tutors in a classroom setting as part of the treatment for 17 clients considered “out-patient.”

Providing clinical education is not considered the same as reading, writing and arithmetic, which would require state certified teachers. The students receive credits as they would if they were attending a regular school. That use is not permitted in the industrial area.

The three cases considered were requests from Village Network for an administrative appeal; a similar use request; and for a variance from code.

All three cases were voted down unanimously.

Attorney Jeffrey Lewis said, representing Village Network, said “We will see them downtown,” meaning he will take the case to Franklin County Municipal Court.

He said that he did not understand why basic education cannot be provided when the zoning says it is okay to teach sex education and dealing responsibly in a clinical setting.

He likened it to tutors in hospitals teaching children who are hospitalized for long periods of time due to illness or accidents.

Jeffrey McNealy, special counsel for Whitehall, offered “Village Network is a fine organization providing a needed service.”

He noted that the BZBA confirmed that the school portion cannot be provided on Poth Road. “There can’t be a lot of rejoicing in the decision, but it is in accordance with the law.”

According to Auditor Kim Maggard, Whitehall has paid about $80,000 in legal fees for special counsel in this case.

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