HERMITAGE Board denies zoning variance to Bob Evans for new restaurant

The restaurant couldn't convince the board of its need for the variance.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- Bob Evans Farms Inc. won't be building a restaurant in Hermitage Square Plaza anytime soon.
The Hermitage Zoning Hearing Board refused to grant the company a front yard setback variance it said it needs to put a Bob Evans restaurant along South Hermitage Road in the plaza.
City zoning regulations require a 50-foot setback from the road, and the restaurant project showed only a 25-foot setback.
Nathan Zampogna, city zoning officer, said the board decided Monday that Bob Evans failed to prove the project would suffer a hardship if the variance wasn't granted.
The company could redesign its project to move the building farther from Hermitage Road, he added.
Company representatives said moving the building back farther from the street would impede an effort by the plaza owner to renovate and redevelop the site.
A large section of Hermitage Square Plaza was destroyed by fire in April 1998 and has never been rebuilt.
Zampogna said Bob Evans representatives also said the entire 509-restaurant chain has only one building design that can't be altered.
The company either has to change the front yard setback or find another location, Zampogna said, adding that the board said it feels the project would benefit the city, but not at the expense of zoning regulations.
There may be one other option and that is to just wait for a few months to see if the city changes the setback requirement.
The city's planning commission has begun reviewing the front yard setback issue because of a large number of requests for variances from the 50-foot figure, said Marcia Hirschmann, city planning director.
There is some interest in reducing that setback number although the planning commission is just beginning to look at the matter, she said.
The zoning hearing board continued the cases of two other businesses seeking zoning variances.
Paul Murko of Mercer wants to put a restaurant in the former Hickory VFW building at 3601 E. State St. but only has space for 46 cars in the parking lot.
City regulations require at least 82 spaces for a restaurant the size he is proposing.
Bank request denied
National City Bank is seeking a front yard setback variance to allow it to put a branch office in the northwest corner of the Shenango Valley Mall parking lot adjacent to North Hermitage Road.
Zampogna said the board felt the bank failed to prove a hardship if the variance is denied.
The bank also wants to be excused from buffer zone regulations that would require it to plant greenery between its office and the nearby Hickory United Methodist Church.

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