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Published: Wednesday, 4/30/2008

Northwood officials call meetings to discuss rezoning plan

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Northwood City officials want to start rezoning parts of Woodville Road and the surrounding area later this year to create a central business district and establish a sense of identity in their city.

But first, they want to hear how business and homeowners in that part of town feel about having their property rezoned by the city.

"It's just a matter of education," City Administrator Pat Bacon said. "We just want them to understand what is being done and what the impact will be to them, if any."

Ms. Bacon, Mayor Mark Stoner, and members of the city's planning commission discussed ways to inform the public of their plan during a strategy meeting last week.

They decided to host a series of meetings in June and July to give residents details of the plan, the idea of which was part of the comprehensive plan for future development in Northwood approved in 2005 by city council.

The meetings will take place at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on June 17 and at 6 p.m. on July 14 at Northwood Municipal Building, 6000 Wales Rd.

"We'll kind of start off with the Power Point presentation," planning commission member

Craig Kohring said. "Then afterwards open it up for questions and answers."

City officials propose to develop a downtown for the city along the entire length of Woodville Road and the surrounding area. The area includes the Great Eastern shopping center and the Woodville Mall.

The city will also be mailing letters in the next few weeks to the owners of the estimated 500 properties within the area it wants to rezone, including answers to a list of anticipated frequently asked questions.

After the planning commission finalizes the plan in August, members will present it to city council, which must approve it before any rezoning can take place.

"It's not a done deal," Law Director Brian Ballenger said. "That's why we want [the public's] input. There's going to be people at these meetings with better ideas than we have."

The central business district zoning classification created by the city in January is intended to create a pedestrian-friendly downtown area where citizens can shop and congregate without leaving city limits.

In their plan, city officials have uniform design standards with which future businesses must comply, including how close a business is to the road and what aesthetic materials, such as wood, brick, or vinyl siding, are used to construct it.

The plan also has specifications about sidewalk width, street lights, and landscaping.

Zoning Coordinator Heather Sayler said people who already own businesses or homes in the intended area, however, would not be required to meet the new specifications unless they plan to remodel or add on to their buildings.

"If someone wanted to build a space larger than 5,000 square feet, we would have to give them permission to do that," she said.

"If you own a home and cease to use that as a residence or you sell it and it ceases to be used as a residence, then the commercial code kicks in."

Planning officials said the effects of the zoning changes on residential homeowners' property values is not definitive, but the city hopes the changes will make the community more desirable and ultimately raise property values.

Ms. Sayler said she has consulted the Wood County Auditor's office about the matter.

"They said they go by current land use for assessing value," she said. "There's not really any changes based on zoning."

The officials said they weren't sure what kind of feedback they will receive about their plan, but they know Northwood citizens want the choice to be able to shop and socialize without leaving their city the way many do now.

"I know people for a long time have wanted something to happen to Northwood," Planning Commission Chairman John Melnyk said. "This is something a lot of people have dreamed about for a long time."



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