CH City Council denies Circle K rezoning request
In a unanimous decision at its March 7 meeting, Cleveland Heights City Council denied a request to change the zoning of two residential properties on Vandemar Street to make way for a Circle K. The decision came after a March 3 public hearing that council held on the issue, at which 30 residents spoke in opposition to the project.
Council members expressed their appreciation for the professionalism of the applicant and for the civility of the neighbors, but stated that the disadvantages outweighed the advantages.
At its Jan. 15 meeting, Cleveland Heights City Council stated that it had received a petition from the Wellert Corporation on behalf of Mac’s Convenience Stores to rezone 1411 and 1419 Vandemar Street from residential to commercial, to make way for a 16-pump Circle K gas station and convenience store. Both residences are currently occupied.
The company seeks to place a 16-pump Circle K gas station and convenience store on the current site of the Center Mayfield (3907-3927 Mayfield Road) and Mayfield Noble (2966 Noble Road) buildings, and sought the rezoning in order to create a larger commercial lot with more of a buffer between the gas station and houses on Vandemar.
The Mayfield and Noble road buildings are located in a C-2 Local Retail District, which, according to the city’s zoning code, is established for “the continued operation of small neighborhood commercial establishments and to concentrate new retail businesses in buildings that typically locate side by side in order to create and encourage pedestrian activity.”
City Council Chambers were filled to overflowing at the March 3 public hearing. Richard Wong, director of planning and development for the City of Cleveland Heights, presented the company’s request to council.
Representatives of the developer stated that the Center Mayfield Building, which was built in 1917 and includes a 1936 theater addition, had been mostly vacant for six years. The theater has been closed for 20, though a video rental and liquor store had occupied the space more recently. They said that the building was obsolete, non-ADA compliant, lacked adequate parking and an elevator, so it was not attractive to anyone but month-to-month tenants. They showed renderings of the proposed project, saying that Circle K would spend more than $100,000 more for the building than its typical store in order to make the project more Cleveland Heights-friendly by adding more brick to the façade, adding more green space, and including sidewalks and bicycle racks.
Vandemar Street Neighbors had organized a Change.org petition in opposition to the project that was signed by 579 people.
Noble Neighbors, a group that represents residents and business owners in the northeast quadrant of Cleveland Heights, coordinated the comments of several residents and experts who spoke about the proposed project’s negative effects on their quality of life and the resulting decline in their property values.
Cleveland Heights resident Bob Brown, former planning director for the City of Cleveland and an expert on zoning ordinances, stated that the city has no obligation to change the status of residential areas. “The main question,” he said, “is ‘Does the proposed change help the community?’ The zoning code is intended to promote the health and well-being of the community, and council should always act to promote this.”
Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive director of FutureHeights, read a statement from the organization’s board of directors urging the city to deny the rezoning request and expressing support for the neighbors.
One Noble Road resident, Benita Toolick, expressed support for the project. She said that the existing building is an eyesore and needs to come down.
Without the rezoning, the company said it might still seek to raze the existing commercial structures and proceed with the project. To do so, however, it would also need to request a conditional use permit from the city. Because of the potential hazards they may pose to residents, gas stations require a permit to operate in a C-2 district. The permit request would go before the Cleveland Heights Planning Commission, should the company decide to pursue it.
Bremer Fisher said that she hoped that a new use for the historic commercial buildings could be found, and that a comprehensive plan for the Center Mayfield Business District, with the Center Mayfield Building at its center, could be developed.
Brenda H. May
Brenda H. May is one of the leaders of Noble Neighbors (www.nobleneighbors.com).