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YOUNGSTOWN History is no factor in West Side zoning decision



Published: Wed, August 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Board members were told not to consider the drug issue.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- For 50 years, two families have lived at 1651 Price Road on the West Side.

For 50 years, that's been illegal.

Despite history, the city zoning appeals board is upholding an order limiting the owner to one family in the home.

The tale goes back anywhere between 72 years and the past few months, depending upon whom you talk to.

The home dates to 1929, according to the city, and there is no record of its being converted into a duplex for the next 40 years.

It couldn't have been legally changed into a duplex since 1969 because the area is zoned for single-family homes.

There is no variance on file.

Grandfather clauses apply only to buildings that are legal at the time of a zone change.

About five years ago, Samuel G. Boak -- who owns about 100 rental homes, with a third of them in the city -- bought the property.

A real estate agency advertised the building as a duplex and two tenants lived there when it was sold, he said.

"I bought it without malice. I bought it in good faith," Boak said.

There was no problem until recently. Complaints started coming about drug use and sales in one unit.

One byproduct was the city's being told the duplex violated zoning laws. The city zoning inspector ordered Boak to return the home to a one-family property because the area is zoned that way.

The home has one water meter, one electric meter and one furnace.

What neighbor said: Boak found a neighbor who testified Tuesday that the home has been a duplex for the 50 years he has lived there.

Boak argued that the home shouldn't be limited to single family because it hasn't been that way for so long.

Under city law the seller must provide documents that show a property's zoning, said Bill D'Avignon, deputy director of planning.

Denise Warren, a zoning board member, said it's unfortunate Boak bought the home under the idea it was a duplex. Nonetheless, the area clearly is zoned single family.

"I don't see changing it because that purchase was made," Warren said.

The board is giving Boak 60 days to make the home a single-family property.

Other concerns: West Side residents who live near the home had also asked the city to make it single family. Some of the eight people who come to the hearing said a duplex would bring down the value of the surrounding single-family homes.

Mostly, though, they complained about police presence the home has demanded in recent months due to the drug issue.

Neighbors produced a petition with 42 signatures opposing a duplex at the Price Road address. They also had a list of 19 police calls that show officers have spent nine hours at the address since January.

Boak said he has worked with police and neighbors for months to rid the property of the bad element. The troublesome tenants are finally gone, he said.

"I've done everything I can," he said.

Before the vote, Robert Bush Jr., the zoning board chairman and city law director, told board members that they could only consider the property's use -- not its crime problem.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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