June 25, 2016

Mostly sunny

Billboard outcry in Brunswick prompts rule change proposal

BRUNSWICK — City Council is considering changing how the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals handles requests for variances.

One of the rule changes would fine variance applicants who withdraw their request less than 10-14 days before a scheduled public hearing.

Another change would require applicants to appear in person before the board to withdraw their requests.

The rule changes were proposed by Councilman Mike Abella, 1st Ward, who has been an outspoken critic of attempts of a local landowner to get a variance to place a large electronic billboard along Interstate 71 at the northern end of the Brunswick Industrial Park.

Abella helped the Benjamin Farms Homeowners Association notify nearby residents about the variance request before the zoning board and encouraged them to attend a public hearing last month.

More than 200 residents showed up only to be told that the property owners had withdrawn their request the day before.

“This is not about being business unfriendly; but it’s about common courtesy,” Abella said.

Abella said he believes Twenty Acres of Woods LLC, the owners of the property, has withdrawn its request twice in an attempt to avoid a vote by the board.

The Board of Zoning Appeals hears appeals of building and zoning permits that were denied by the city Planning Commission. It also hears requests for variances, which are exceptions to zoning regulations.

“I think they should get as many continuances as they want, but they have to show up in person and ask for it,” he said.

Abella, who serves as chairman of the city’s planning and zoning committee, said he wanted to work with the city’s law department to draft the rule changes as a zoning ordinance.

Mayor Gary Werner suggested that the ordinance mirrored rules for plaintiffs in lawsuits.

“They’re allowed to withdraw once without prejudice,” Werner said. “After that, it’s dismissed with prejudice.”

City Law Director Ken Fisher said he would sit down with Santo Incorvaia, an assistant law director who sits on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

“We would want input from the Board of Zoning Appeals and then we would put a draft together,” Fisher said.

Any changes to the board’s procedure would have to be approved by Council’s planning and zoning committee and then consider by the full Council.

“We have a section of the city ordinances that addresses the Board of Zoning Appeals procedure,” he said. “We could add to that section to provide whatever changes they want.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.