Michael Birmingham's attempt to find a new home for his limousine business hit a roadblock when Sylvania Township trustees turned down his request for a change in zoning on Alexis Road that would have allowed him to construct a building for his enterprise.
Both the Lucas County Planning Commission and the Sylvania Township Plan Commission had approved a change from the current residential zoning at 4885 and 4901 Alexis Rd., to commercial, but neighbors' concerns have at least slowed the process.
Mr. Birmingham said he is discussing options with his attorney and hasn't yet determined what his next move might be. He said he may apply for a planned unit development so he can build an office and space for his limousines.
He told trustees he intended to build a "nice, new, beautiful building" on the site which now has an abandoned house. He added that he intended to include fencing and trees to shield residential neighbors who have homes backing up to his property.
Dennis Boyle, chairman of the trustees, said Mr. Birmingham will have a better chance of going ahead with his plans if he seeks approval of a planned unit development for the project. Such an application requires submission of detailed plans for developing the property east of Whiteford Road.
A change in zoning limits the uses for property and has certain restrictions on building size and position on the land, but a planned unit development allows for more oversight by township officials.
He said such an application allows the public to view the plans, including the type of fencing and the number of trees proposed for the site.
By going through that process, neighbors could be assured of what the screening is to consist of prior to trustees voting on the application, Mr. Boyle said.
After a new zoning classification is approved, a developer's site plan is reviewed administratively.
Mr. Boyle said he is concerned when commercial property abuts residential neighborhoods and he wants more assurances than were given that there will be sufficient screening provided to buffer the property from residents.
He added that unlike a change in zoning, which Mr. Birmingham applied for, a planned unit development can revert to the prior zoning classification when the business leaves the site.
Mr. Birmingham has been looking for a home for his business since he was found guilty in Sylvania Municipal Court of a number of violations of the city zoning code.
Neighbors had complained to the city that limousines in Mr. Birmingham's fleet were upsetting to the residents of the Brint Road neighborhood because of the noise they made and the lights of the vehicles when they returned in early morning hours.
He was prosecuted for operating a business in a residential area.
City officials acknowledged that there are likely a number of businesses operated from homes in Sylvania and that there is little interest in prosecuting them, but when valid complaints are received, the city will respond.
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