Sheetz wins zoning suit

Cody Francis

The Portage County Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of Sheetz Inc. to build a gas station at the corner of North Mantua Street and Fairchild Avenue. Rachel Kilroy | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

A magistrate has ruled the proposed Sheetz, Inc. gas station at the corner of Fairchild Avenue and North Mantua Street never needed the variance the Kent Board of Zoning Appeals refused to grant in October.

Kent City Council has two weeks to appeal Magistrate Robert Berger’s ruling, filed with the Portage County Court of Common Pleas June 30. If there are no objections, Judge Laurie Pittman is expected to finalize the ruling.

No city council members could be reached to ask whether or not they were in talks to appeal.

In October, Sheetz, Inc. asked the board of zoning appeals for four variances to accommodate the design of the proposed gas station. There were two variances for signage, one for a higher fence and another for an increased setback allowance. The board granted three of the four, denying the gas station the setback allowance it needed.

The board of zoning appeals ruled the side of the gas station that would be 13.7 feet from an adjacent alley would be too close to the road because it would be considered a “front yard,” which requires it to be 30 feet from a road, as opposed to a “side yard,” which requires 10 feet.

In his opinion, Berger wrote, “The Appellee City of Kent Board of Zoning Appeal’s decision that the area alongside the alley was a front yard was arbitrary, unreasonable and unsupported by a preponderance of the evidence in the record.”

Gary Locke, community development director for the city, said there are multiple references to a “front yard” in the city’s zoning code so Sheetz was entitled to “the most liberal application.”

“Some parts (of the zoning code) go back to 1971,” he said. “Things get added in and people don’t always go back and check one against another. The court said ‘Well, there’s some confusion, we have multiple references,’ so they ruled in favor of Sheetz.”

Locke said the city decided to revise the zoning code last fall, but it was not because of the Sheetz case.

“We’re taking a look at the zoning code because it has been in place since the mid-80s,” he said. “It’s really a separate issue from Sheetz itself.”

Locke said the city has at least another year to go on the revision.

Contact editor Cody Francis at [email protected].