Planning, Zoning and Utilities sets public hearing on senior apartment proposal
By Matt Echelberry
The Planning, Zoning and Utilities Committee held a regular meeting Jan. 22 to discuss the proposed senior independent living facility. The proposal was made by The NOAH Project, who is partnering with the contractor Arbor Shoreline, Inc. with hopes to build Eden Place on the site of the former Galion High School.
The proposal was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in December by a 3–2 vote. That evening, the committee was to decide if the proposal should come before Council. Committee chair Tom Fellner asked Planning and Zoning Commissioner Bob Cerar to brief the committee on the Commission’s recommendation.
Cerar explained that two major concerns are: The property was a cemetery at one time and past environmental studies have indicated environmental hazards. However, he noted that a company like Arbor Shoreline would have more of an ability to deal with any issues than an individual, if the property was instead used to build individual homes on.
In order for the project to receive state funding, a full environmental study must be conducted at the site and the findings must be satisfactory. Also in order to receive funding, NOAH and Arbor Shoreline would commit to owning and maintaining the property for a minimum of 30 years.
Cerar felt that a senior living facility would be “the best use for the property right now” because the site is an ideal location for residents due to its proximity to the Uptowne District. Cerar argued that the structure of the building would fit into the neighborhood because, architecturally, it will be designed to blend in. He also noted that it would not be a drain on utilities (water and sewage) like the high school was.
Fellner asked Building Inspector Matt Ross what the property was currently zoned as.
Ross explained the property is currently zoned as Residential District, and would need rezoned to Residential Multi-Family if the proposal is approved by Council. Ross said if the project then does not get approved for state funding, that area would still be zoned as Multi-Family and other projects could come in. In order for the property to be changed back to Residential, the process would start all over again.
Should that happen, it is important to note that the Galion City Schools Board of Education still owns the property and has a right not to sell it.
Committee member Gail Baldinger asked if the property could be checked somehow for remaining graves, especially for Asa Hosford, whose tomb is rumored to remain somewhere on the grounds. Baldinger also said zoning details, such as setbacks, need to be established.
Fellner agreed that there are some issues that need to be addressed. He noted a public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26, during the Galion City Council meeting. He intends to invite back NOAH, as well as representatives of Arbor Shoreline and the Cemetery Association. Fellner said it will also be a chance for more citizen input about the proposal.
Those in attendance agreed that there are issues in terms of the property, but they do not outweigh the benefits of having a new complex that is handicap accessible and will bring some revenue to Galion Schools.
The next meeting for the Planning, Zoning and Utilities Committee will be at a special date and time, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building.