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Published: Thursday, 6/12/2003

Council panel rejects Central Ave. carryout

Toledo City Council's zoning and planning committee yesterday unanimously rejected a special-use permit for a gas station and convenience store at 2829 West Central Ave.

The application's next stop is the full council on June 24.

If it is rejected there, the Howard family, which owns American Petroleum Retail, Inc., will appeal to Lucas County Common Pleas Court, the company's attorney said.

Neighbors have opposed the permit, saying it is too intensive a use for the residential community. The location has been a gas station since 1938, but has been out of use since 1999.

Councilman Ellen Grachek, who represents District 5 in which the proposed gas station-convenience store would be located, said Michael Howard, president of the company, has not met her conditions for a special-use permit.

“We made this decision on a land-use-planning basis. We made a good-faith effort to come to an agreement,” Ms. Grachek said.

She said most of her concerns about hours of operation, traffic, lighting, noise, litter, and design have not been addressed.

Ms. Grachek insisted on a vote yesterday to deny the application over the objections of acting chairman Rob Ludeman, who suggested the committee refer the application to council without a vote.

Mr. Ludeman said a referral without recommendation would allow for negotiations before the final vote.

It will be more difficult now that eight members of council have cast a no vote on the project, he said.

Ms. Grachek, who was appointed in January and was elected in a special election in May, is seeking re-election in November. The long-running dispute between the city and the Howard family has become a high-profile controversy in her district.

Michael Howard's father, Herbie Howard, started the family business and now serves as a consultant.

Family attorney John Potts said the Howards are unfairly perceived as likely to bring problems into the Old Orchard neighborhood because they operate service stations and convenience stores in central-city neighborhoods where crime is more common.

He said the family is willing to meet virtually all the neighborhood's conditions, including closing at 11 p.m.

“As far as I'm concerned, everything is on the table - everything within reason,” Mr. Potts said.

He said West Central is a heavily traveled road, and is the logical place for a convenience store and gas station.

The special-use permit was rejected by the plan commission in April, despite a recommendation from the plan commission's staff that it be approved with conditions.

Those conditions included restricted hours and reduced lighting.



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