Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Sylvania zoning proposal aims to preserve old neighborhoods

Having received recommendations from the city and Lucas County planning commissions on changes to Sylvania's zoning code, a Sylvania City Council committee is to reconvene May 16 to review the proposal before conducting a public hearing in early June.

Most of the changes are technical updates to the regulations, which have gone largely unchanged since the 1960s.

The revisions include creating a special district intended to preserve the character of Sylvania's oldest neighborhoods and new rules to make downtown friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists.

During discussion last week, City Council President Todd Milner and Councilman Michael Brown suggested delaying the hearing and referring the zoning proposal to outsiders for review.

"I'm a little uncomfortable with the pace that we're moving," Mr. Milner said. "It would be good to just get another set of eyes on this -- by a banker, or a developer, from another city. Consultants are consultants -- I'd like to get some real people."

But Doug Haynam, zoning and annexation committee chairman, said that sort of outside input was obtained during committee deliberations, which have taken more than a year.

"We did exactly what you're suggesting. We got some real-world eyes on it, and we got some very good comments as a result of that," Mr. Haynam said.

Councilman Mark Luetke, who also protested the pace of the revisions' development, said, "I feel pretty comfortable that we vetted it and did our due diligences as best we could. We've been moving glacially."

The May 16 committee meeting is to start at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers, and the hearing there on June 6 is to start at 6 p.m. Mr. Haynam suggested to Mr. Milner and Mr. Brown that they could get any outside advice they desire before the hearing.

The Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District requires that housing construction or renovations in such areas be designed to generally conform with the height, setback, and building materials of nearby structures.

To encourage home restorations rather than replacements, it requires a 90-day waiting period for routine demolitions.

The proposal drafted by Mr. Haynam's committee applies the conservation district to a broad area of central Sylvania, but the city planning commission recommended that it include only the city's oldest neighborhoods west and north of the downtown business district.

Mayor Craig Stough said the city is working with the owners of older homes that would be outside the smaller overlay district to ensure their houses' preservation, and he expects most to cooperate.

"The majority will say yes -- that's why they bought those houses," the mayor said.

If adopted, the revised zoning code also will require businesses to accommodate pedestrian access and, if the businesses are along city bike trails or designated bike routes, to provide bike racks with capacity equal to one bicycle for every 15 parking spaces.

The landscaping section establishes planting standards for commercial areas.

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