Jim Clay addresses City Council during its meeting on Monday evening. (DHI/Sherry Missler)
Jim Clay addresses City Council during its meeting on Monday evening. (DHI/Sherry Missler)

VAN WERT — Van Wert City Council heard both sides of a dispute regarding a Zoning Board of Appeals decision to allow Casey’s General Store to place a gas station at the corner of Washington Street and Ervin Road.

Law Director John Hatcher explained to council members what they needed to consider as they heard the arguments.

“The standard that I would urge you all to consider is the standard that would be applied if this case would be appealed from this board, which it could be, to the Court of Common Pleas of Van Wert County," said Hatcher. "Primarily what you need to look at is whether or not the Board of Zoning Appeals procedure is correct. Was everyone notified and did they have a chance to be heard? Did they do that as part of the hearing. If that was all accomplished, then in my opinion, you should uphold the decision of zoning appeals.”

Jim Clay, who lives at 933 S. Washington St., spoke to council saying that a gas station there would lower the value of his property.

“My big issue is that I have one asset and one asset only," said Clay. "I own the home that I have lived in for almost 48 years. I watched both my parents die there. Some day I hope to die there and when I do I want my daughter to sell it for its true value and use that to help her and my grandson to have a better life than I have.”

“I have probably talked to maybe 200 people and asked them if they would be interested in living next door to a gas station," he continued. "I’ve yet to find one person who will. So it just stands to reason that nobody wants to live next door to a gas station. How will she ever sell that property once I’m dead? She’ll have to give it away to get rid of it and that’s not right. That’s not fair. There’s not one person here who would let that happen to them. But there are people here who expect it to happen to me.”

“I’m not trying to be unreasonable here," said Clay. "I just don’t believe a gas station belongs on that property there.”

He said he didn’t blame the Zoning Board of Appeals for its decision, claiming nobody knew about the meeting.

“How can you make a decision when you’re not getting any input?” said Clay.

Catherine A. Cunningham, an attorney with Kegler Brown Hill and Ritter from Columbus, represented Casey’s General Store. She stated she was at the BZA hearing to present Casey’s case.

“There were neighbors who did appear and did testify. Representatives from Casey’s came and testified. They made a record in this case which I think was made available to council members. They submitted an application along with a site plan, along with a lighting plan, a landscape plan, a sign plan showing how the property would be used," said Cunningham. "The screening that would be available. There were neighbors who came, there were community members who came. Mr. Clay was not among the members who attended that meeting. He did send a letter to the meeting that was part of the record, that was read by members of the BZA. They considered the factors in that letter and also considered all the testimony that came before them."

"Based on all the information that came before them and the standards of your code, they did approve, unanimously, the conditional use permit for this service station," Cunningham continued. "What they did was their job. They are experts in the area. That is the job of the BZA to approve variances. Actually Casey’s did not ask for any variances or special exceptions from the code. They were going to meet every single development standard that applied to that lot in terms of set backs, lot coverage, landscaping, lighting, signage. Everything complied with the code. The only question was, ‘should this use be permitted at this location under the standards provided under the conditional use permit.’ As it is shown from the record, that was established and it was unanimously approved by the BZA.”

The council voted to support the zoning board of appeal’s decision with Joi Mergy voting no.

During administrative reports, Mayor Jerry Mazur went on the record to thank law enforcement for their response during the recent school threat situation.

“I would like to thank our city police department, sheriff’s department and state patrol for the quick action they took at school this past week,” said Mazur.

He informed council that the Clark gas station was almost gone. Mergy questioned the mayor regarding the county’s electric aggregation situation. He responded that although First Energy did have the contract, AEP had created a company that had bid against First Energy and won.

Health, Service and Safety chair Bill Marshall spoke on the decrease in code violations for this year, the illegal feeding of feral cats and proposed ordinance changes. Council voted to change the language of the nuisance ordinance making it an unclassified misdemeanor.

Resolution 18-02-016 passed which authorized the sale of municipally owned personal property that is not needed for public use or which is obsolete or unfit for the use for which it was acquired by internet auction.

Prior to Monday’s City Council meeting, a Council of the Whole meeting was held to discuss a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) Tax Exemption agreement for the proposed housing development to be located on Van Wert Decatur Road. There are currently three areas in Van Wert with CRA agreements already approved by the state: south side, airport and the downtown. During discussion council members pondered whether the entire city could not be included with a cap on the maximum amount allowed.

Mayor Mazur was in favor of the proposal to include the entire city.

“My thought would be to include the entire city due to the fact that we have so many vacant lots in town and there are going to be more generated," said Mazur. "It would give those neighborhoods some incentive to develop those vacant lots.”

It was decided to consult the county commissioners and Vantage representatives before taking any action on the CRA question.

A meeting was scheduled for March 12 to begin at 6:15 p.m. regarding Vision Park flooding.