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Published: Thursday, 8/26/2004

Sylvania Township: Part of Central Avenue development plan sent to Lucas panel

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Although meetings are still scheduled to determine whether a plan for the development of Central Avenue will be approved, one aspect of the plan has been forwarded to the Lucas County Planning Commission for possible inclusion in the Sylvania Township zoning code.

The new zoning district, although now limited to possible use only in an area south of Central Avenue, could be used in other areas of the township to buffer residential development from commercial areas. Commissioners determined that it was of enough potential value that they sent it for review by the county body.

If it is approved by the county planning board, township trustees will need to approve it before it becomes part of the township zoning code. The new category is known as compatible-transitional use.

The regulation calls for a buffer of at least 100 feet between a commercial district and single-family homes and of at least 50 feet between multiple-family developments and single-family homes.

The buffering, designated to be primarily landscaping and mounding, has a value in itself, according to Charlene Kerr of Poggemeyer Design Group, but it also can work against a series of small developments.

Ms. Kerr said a developer will need to assemble a number of parcels before anything can be built that will be economically feasible.

Just buying one residential lot, or even two, probably wouldn't leave enough buildable land for

a viable business.

The category calls for the buffer to be a "visual barrier and protection" from the commercial district. Fencing is allowed as part of the buffer but may not be used in place of landscaping and mounding.

Brad Peebles, township administrator, said the new zoning category doesn't only put a requirement on the developer of commercial property, but if a residential developer begins to expand a subdivision, the buffer will have to be in place as the houses approach the commercial district.

Mr. Peebles noted that the planning for uses along Central Avenue is an initial step in putting together a new master plan for the township.

He said he can think of areas of the township where such a district might be included by the committee that will be organized to come up with a new plan for development.

A recommendation on the overall Central Avenue corridor plan was postponed until Sept. 1 by the township zoning commission after they heard comments, most of them critical, for more than two hours at a recent meeting.

Although none were opposed to the compatible-transition use category, some did argue that it should not be in conjunction with already established residential areas.

Under the Central Avenue plan, the proposed category would be put in place in an area that would be an extension of the 400 feet from Central where commercial activity is not allowed. Under the proposal, businesses, such as professional offices, would be allowed at a depth of 1,000 feet from Central.

The proposal also suggests that the township incorporate three other new zoning categories.

One would be called 'integrated commercial area district,' and would replace the current designation of 'office-distribution-light industrial.'

The recommendation is made, in part, to rid the current designation of the "smoke stack'' image that comes with the word industrial, according to the report.

The proposal also suggests a designation to be known as 'conservation design residential subdivision'. The designation should be used in a case of a proposed development where township officials want natural resources and ground contours to be retained.

The township should encourage the use of a proposed mixed-use commercial-residential district when approval is sought for the development of large tracts of land. The designation would allow for many types of uses, such as retail stores, offices, apartments, single-family housing within a development.

The planners said the township would be able to control aspects of the design through a provision that would allow them to control "general welfare'' as the design developed.

Although the categories are currently tied to the proposal for future use of Central, they could be split off and considered for inclusion in the township's zoning ordinance no matter how the Central Avenue plan is eventually dealt with.

The overall plan is set for a special hearing before the township trustees Sept. 22.



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