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Apartment foes’ petition on ballot in Waterville

But buildings are already under way


Jeffrey Hughes Construction workers Cory Notman, left, and Joe Metzler install siding on the Kensington Gardens Apartments at 8375 Waterville-Monclova Rd. in Waterville.

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A zoning-change initiative petitioned by opponents of an apartment development on Waterville’s west side is on the local ballot for the May 7 special election.

But the buildings at 8375 Waterville-Monclova Rd. already are being built, and city Administrator James Bagdonas said that even if they weren’t, the developer has the permits to build the 14 two-unit structures where another builder once proposed condominiums.

Changing the property’s zoning from multifamily residential to single-family residential can only affect what could be built there in the future should any of the Kensington Garden Apartments buildings ever be destroyed, Mr. Bagdonas said.

“It would be a nonconforming use,” he said.

The property on the east side of Waterville-Monclova just south of State Rt. 64 is part of 6.4 acres rezoned to multifamily residential eight years ago to support a proposal for a 40-unit condo project.

But Perrysburg developer Scott Prephan, whose Erie Shores Real Estate Ltd. developed that project, put up just two of the four-unit condos before the local real-estate market went sour, Mr. Bagdonas said.

Lucas County land records show Mercurio Developers Inc. of Sylvania bought the remaining 4.5 acres from SOF-VIII-FT Garverick Prephan LLC for $120,000 early last year and proposed building 32 rental dwellings on the site, later reduced to 28 apartments in 14 two-unit buildings.

Mr. Bagdonas noted the apartments in each building touch each other minimally, with the only common wall being at closets in their garages. That qualified them as multifamily residences; single-family housing is not allowed in Waterville’s R3 multifamily zones.

City council approved the revised plans Oct. 8, prompting two petition drives: one for a referendum to overturn the site-plan approval, the other for the initiative to change the site’s zoning back to R1 single-family residential.

The city refused to submit the first of those two petitions, and Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates on Feb. 22 upheld Waterville’s position that the site-plan approval was an administrative act, not a legislative one that would be subject to referendum review.

The zoning initiative was proper, Mr. Bagdonas said, but zoning changes do not invalidate existing zoning permits.

Russell Miller, a Sylvania lawyer representing the neighbors, said last week that the initiative was intended to be a companion to their effort to repeal the apartments’ zoning permit, “but not solely for that.” If voters approve the zoning change, he said, “in the future [the property] could not be used for a multifamily type use, should there be a discontinuity” in the grandfathered use.

Neighboring landowners supported the condominiums, the lawyer said, because they would have been “qualitatively and quantitatively” better for the area than the apartments will be.

The special election is expected to cost Waterville about $6,000 for poll workers, ballots, and other expenses, the Board of Elections said.

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