By a vote of 4 to 2 Monday night, Portsmouth City Council voted to rezone the area from Residence “A” to Residence “B,” opening the door for a facility that will accommodate parking for about 145 patients.
However, the vote did not come without controversy. For an hour-and-a-half citizens in a packed house at the Scioto County Welcome Center voiced their favor and opposition to the facility.
Roberta Duncan spoke in opposition first on behalf of David Irwin, then on her own behalf.
“A threat to residents — a feeling of safety and security — there are environmental issues,” Duncan said. “This would be an encroachment on our neighborhood, and most assuredly de-value our property, which would include a loss of tax revenue to the city of Portsmouth.”
At one point, Duncan asked everyone who was opposed to stand, and about 50 people did so.
Carl Hilgarth, chair of Engineering Technologies who also teaches Ethics at Shawnee State University, attempted to bring some civility to the discourse while also opposing the rezoning.
“If we go east on Kinney’s Lane, the rezoning is going to allow the creeping commercialization into a residential area,” Hilgarth said. “There have been people who represented businesses at the corner of Offnere and Kinney’s Lane, who have spoken for this. And why have they spoken for this? Because they intend to make money from this.”
Dr. Fred Gohmann referred to “parking Creep,” which he said is the almost unnoticed parking of cars along public streets and not in designated parking areas.
“Check the congestion in front of PHS (Portsmouth High School). Check the old Coles Boulevard intersection with Micklethwaite Road before reaching the hospital,” Gohmann said in opposition to the location of the doctor’s offices on Kinney’s Lane. He called crossing the streets in those areas a, “dangerous gamble.”
Dee Penix spoke in support of the doctor’s offices.
“I have heard that there are residents who are worried that the patients are going to park on the street and take all of the parking spaces up. Why would they do that if we have 100 to 160 parking spaces in the back?” Penix said. “When the school was there, they did park on the street, teachers and everything, all day long. I can tell you, when school let out, parents would pick up children and they would be blocking the streets. I don’t see this is going to be near the problem.”
She also called attention to the property taxes which she said the facility would produce, depending on the value, which, according to one source, would be between $3 million and $5 million. Penix estimated taxes would range from $56,500 to $92,700 per year. No taxes are being generated by that property at this time.
Rusty Miller rebutted earlier statements made at a previous meeting by Bill Shaw, who called the attempt to rezone that area as “spot zoning.”
“It is not as simple as Mr. Shaw indicates,” Miller said. “Spot zoning, in a legal sense, is the singling out of a lot or a small area for discriminatory or different treatment, according to other areas around it. The big issue in this case is that Trinidad LLC bought all of Lot 1 Dever Addition. It is 2 1/2 acres. Under Residence “A” if you look at what we can do with that as far as lots, we could put 20 homes in there for anybody. Where, if you look at Residence “B,” it could be 30. But since Trinidad has all of the area, it is a very large area, so it really doesn’t come in to what spot zoning is.”
One of the doctors involved in the project, Dr. Christopher Schmidt, who lives one block from the property, said, “I would in no way, shape or form, jeopardize the neighborhood for profit. I would not jeopardize the value of my home or my children.”
Schmidt talked about the doctor’s investments in the property as showing confidence in the city and the plan to stay and operate in Portsmouth.
“We want an office building that is close to the hospital,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt also responded to a citizens claim that there would be drugs in the offices.
“There will be no drugs in our office building,” Schmidt said.
Several members of the community urged Council to reject the rezoning, and recommend other buildings and vacant lots downtown.
Kirk Donges of Tanner Stone Holsinger Donges, gave a PowerPoint presentation and explained the facility would be a 31,000 to 32,000 square-foot two-story building, residential in look and design, with a brick exterior, a chimney, a shingle roof, a large overhang, a front porch layout and surrounded by professional landscaping to blend into the residential community.
“We as Councilmen, we know a lot of decisions we make in the things that we do, we are not going to please everybody. There’s always going to be a group that is going to be unhappy,” Portsmouth City Council President David Malone said. “We have rules. We have guidelines. We have ordinances that we have to follow, and as long as we don’t break statutes, rules, ordinances, then, whatever decision we make, may not be acceptable and favorable to the other side. It’s not to try to divide anybody.”
In the end, City Council voted to allow the rezoning. First Ward Councilman Kevin Johnson and Sixth Ward Councilman Rich Noel were the two dissenting votes.
Council also did not pass an ordinance dealing with a $400,000 Community Housing Improvement grant through the consulting firm CDC of Ohio, which would have paid $4,000 to Mandilyn J. Hart, executive director and senior consultant with the Center for Appalachian Philanthropy, for writing the grant. The final vote, after another long discussion, was 3-3, with Jerrold Albrecht, Noel and Johnson voting for the measure and Malone, Nick Basham and John Haas in opposition.
FRANK LEWIS can may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232 or firstname.lastname@example.org