Vermilion council considers zoning change for distribution center – Morning Journal
Creative zoning, site layout and landscaping are the keys to Vermilion enabling a new distribution center that would keep the peace with its neighbors.
On November 8, Vermilion City Council spent about an hour in a working session discussing the rezoning application for approximately 119.6 acres just north of the Baumhart Road and Ohio Route 2 interchange.
City officials said they hoped to determine a solution for consideration at a special meeting on November 15.
But we don’t know exactly what it will be.
During the working session, Council Chairman Steven Herron and Council Members Emily Skahen from Ward 1, Frank Loucka from Ward 2, Stephen Holovacs from Ward 3, Barb Brady from Ward 4, Brian Holmes from Ward 5 and Monica Stark, in general, all had questions and comments.
They spoke with Mayor Jim Forhofer and city engineer Chris Howard.
Gregory Scovitch, Vice President of Development for Hillwood – A Perot Company and Manny Torgow of Sterling Group II LLC, were in attendance.
The developers did not disclose end-user or exact details of the financial investment or jobs, but offered ideas on planning a fulfillment center on the site.
The developers hope to close the field by the end of the year, Scovitch said.
If that happens and the city approves, planning would take place in the first half of 2022 and construction would begin in June or July next year, with a 10-month construction schedule, he said.
The meeting attracted around 18 residents and some of them spoke to Council to request that the zoning change be rejected.
Council is expected to vote against the zoning change because residents want Vermilion to remain a small town on a large lake, said Tom Palmer, a nearby resident on Cooper Foster Park Road.
Neighbors want crops and agriculture, not six-story warehouses, said Marilyn Brill, also a resident of Cooper Foster Park Road.
On the drawing board
The land is currently zoned B-3 Highway Commercial District and I-1 Light Industrial District, which has a height limit of 45 feet.
The Vermilion Municipal Planning Commission recommended changing it to I-2 Heavy Industrial District, which would allow building heights of up to 60 feet at the site.
The height is necessary to accommodate contemporary storage and distribution centers.
The developers hope the city will allow buildings up to 65 feet tall.
During the discussion, suggestions included rushing a building plan that the city’s building inspector would reject in the hope of a quick review by the city’s zoning appeal board.
Another likely option is to change the maximum allowable height to 65 feet for all I-1 light industrial land in Vermilion.
The city cannot change the maximum height for the I-1 Light Industrial zoning, only for the 119.6 acres affected, as that would be favorable treatment for an applicant, Brady said.
Changing the height limit for all I-1 lots would allow the project.
Then council could consider new maximum heights in various zoning districts when city leaders conduct a full zoning review, Brady said.
Forhofer has advocated for a city-wide zoning analysis and that process will begin this month.
The land is in a prime, flat location near Highway 2 and the Ohio Turnpike, and has been zoned industrial for years, Loucka said.
Sooner or later the property will be developed somehow and the only way to keep it underdeveloped is to buy it, he said.
It is clear that Vermilion’s zoning code needs to be improved as there were no rules regarding landscaping buffer zones, Loucka said.
He also reviewed the setback requirements for minimum distances between buildings and property lines and criticized a possible 150-foot setback as “totally inadequate” and “nothing” for residents of Claus Road.
Without a serious sitemap, Loucka said he didn’t have enough information to vote on the zoning change.
But if the zoning change occurs, more details will be shared with the city’s planning commission, Forhofer said.
Council raised concerns ranging from hours of operation to counting traffic to the effects of lighting at night.
Scovitch acknowledged that the layout examples, submitted to the city so far, did not take into account the location of neighbors.
“Shame on us; we are better than that,” he said.
Based on topography, the site is likely to flow from its upper south end to the lower north zone.
Construction may require the scraping of topsoil that could become a mound of earth between the distribution center and its neighbors, Scovitch said.