Councilman Jack Ford, one of two 'no' votes, says project would harm the neighborhood.
A majority of Toledo City Council approved a zoning change Tuesday to allow a controversial $27 million student housing apartment building on West Bancroft Street near the University of Toledo to proceed.
Council voted 9-2 in favor of the zoning change for 2565 to 2661 Bancroft. Councilmen Tyrone Riley and Jack Ford voted against. Councilman Matt Cherry, who was appointed 11 days ago by council to the vacant District 2 seat, wasn’t present for the regular meeting.
Mr. Riley said complaints from some neighbors in the adjacent Bancroft Hills subdivision gave him reservations about the project.
Mr. Ford said the project would continue the “change in character” of that neighborhood.
“I have been around a long time and I live right next to that area,” he said. “That whole neighborhood has changed in character and I think this will add to it. It’s a good project and it will create some jobs but it means the neighborhood will deteriorate.”
Mr. Ford also questioned whether there would be a demand for those apartments.
Developers plan to demolish a former night club, coffee shop, and other buildings on Bancroft near campus for the construction project to put up a four-story, 143-unit building with 456 parking spaces — all designed to appeal to college students.
The builder, Guy Totino, of Cleveland, refused to answer questions about the project.
Mr. Totino, a partner in a Cleveland company that has developed apartment complexes near the campuses of Cleveland State University and the University of Indiana, told council previously that the project would begin in early 2014 and apartments would be available for lease in summer 2015.
The developer needed a special-use permit and zoning of mixed commercial-residential on the 6½-acres at the southeast corner of Bancroft and Westwood Avenue. The plans won approval from the city plan commission and from council’s own zoning and planning committee, where it was the subject of about 90 minutes of discussion.
Mark Rose, a Toledo attorney representing Mr. Totino, previously said the project will be first-class, which he said appeals to a trend among college students.
Councilman Tom Waniewski, whose district includes the project location, urged support.
“We had a very good meeting with the University of Toledo. ... It left no doubt in my mind the need for student housing,” Mr. Waniewski said.
The ordinance to allow a rezoning and special use permit for the project was on council’s agenda last Thursday for immediate passage. Mr. Ford and Councilman Larry Sykes asked for a briefing for new members.
Mr Sykes said he wanted time to review the plan before voting.
“The neighbors were concerned about what kind of retail would be going in there,” he said. “The developers assured me it would be food, subs, pizza —the kind of things that would fit with college students, and not liquor.”
Mayor D. Michael Collins also urged support of the project.
“We will send a message that neighborhoods are important, development is important, and Toledo is open for business,” Mayor Collins said.
In other business, council approved President Paula Hicks-Hudson’s selections for committee chairmanships, which included bouncing fellow Democrat Mike Craig out of the top spot for the zoning and planning committee.
“You have seven Democrats who elected a Republican as chairman of economic development, and you also have a five-year chairman of zoning and planning removed,” Mr. Craig said.
Council voted 9-2 to approve the new zoning and planning committee, which made Mr. Riley the chairman. Mr. Craig and Mr. Waniewski voted no.
Mr. Craig asked council to reject Ms. Hicks-Hudson’s decision and appoint him chairman of economic development, rather than Republican Rob Ludeman. Mr. Craig cast the lone no vote for the committee confirmation. He was also alone in voting against the finance committee confirmation, which put Ms. Hicks-Hudson as chairman.
Mr. Ford was made chairman of the neighborhoods committee; Councilman Theresa Gabriel, a political independent, was made chairman of public safety, Councilman Lindsay Webb was made chairman of utilities and public service, and Councilman Steven Steel was made chairman of parks and recreation.