Zoning change would allow for sober houses

YOUNGSTOWN — Proposals to rezone two residential houses to allow sober-living facilities were met by opposition from neighbors and concern from city planning commission members.

But because only three of the seven commission members attended Tuesday’s meeting, it didn’t have enough for a quorum and thus couldn’t vote on the requests.

Michael and Pamela Sabol requested the commission change the zone classification of houses they own from single family residential to one- and two- family residential at 54 Milton Ave. on the West Side and 953 Winona Drive on the South Side.

The changes are needed in order for them to establish sober-living facilities at the two structures in residential neighborhoods.

Charles Shasho, a planning commission member and the city’s deputy director of public works, described the requests as “classic spot zoning situations,” and that they’d be “one lot in a sea of single-family homes.”

Law Director Jeff Limbian, another commission member, said, “We have concerns.”

Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, whose ward includes the Milton Avenue house, said he opposed the zoning change because it “would be spot zoning, thus creating an unjustified exception for one parcel within the neighborhood.”

Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th, whose ward includes the Winona Drive house, sent a letter in opposition to that zone change.

The commission can only make recommendations for zoning changes with the final decision in the hands of city council.

The commission is next scheduled to meet Dec. 17 though there’s the possibility for a special meeting.

The people who spoke about the proposed sober-living facilities and other items on the agenda may be asked to comment again at the next meeting though a stenographer was there to transcribe the discussion. The absent members could be given a copy of the transcription and a vote taken at the next meeting, Limbian said.

Also Wednesday, the city’s board of zoning appeals — which consists of the same members as the planning commission — met to consider a variance from the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County to build a three-bay addition to an existing garage at its Newport branch on the South Side.

Again, enough members of the board did not attend to represent for a quorum.

But the library proposal will likely be recommended the next time the board meets.

The garage at the Newport branch, 3730 Market St., would bring the library’s maintenance department under one roof, said Aimee Fifarek, the library’s executive director.

“The maintenance team has equipment such as snowplows and riding mowers with part of the space use for woodworking to do shelves,” she said. “It’s cheaper than buying the shelves.”

There’s an old three-bay garage at the main branch, 305 Wick Ave., that will be demolished as part of a $21 million improvement project there, Fifarek said.

The new garage at Newport would cost about $96,000, she said.

“We want to get it done in 120 days,” Fifarek said.

The proposal needs a recommendation from the board and approval from city council because the library is seeking to reduce the rear yard setback from 25 feet to 11 feet.



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