Board grants 3 variances for new Sheetz

John Hitch

The Kent Board of Zoning Appeals approved three of the four variances requested by Sheetz last night in a meeting that lasted four-and a-half hours.

While the board granted the proposed Sheetz at the northwest corner of North Mantua Street and Fairchild Avenue the right to a higher barrier wall along the property and signs on the convenient store and lawn area, it denied the gas chain’s request for a 50 percent increase in its proximity to residential neighbors. The actual design for the site was approved in September by the planning commission.

Sheetz representatives and Kent residents sparred heatedly over the site in the final battle of a debate that has raged since late summer.

After Sheetz representative Stephen Funk explained the need to approve four design variances for more than an hour, the Kent community offered an equally lengthy rebuttal.

Fifteen residents spoke to the board about their concerns, ranging from pedestrian safety to light pollution to traffic congestion in an area earmarked for a renovated park along the Cuyahoga River. The biggest concern is the overall size, exhibited by a petition signed by more than 300 people presented by Kent resident Lee Brooker to the board.

“For better or for worse, we’re not here to comment on design,” Peter Paino, chairman of the board of zoning appeals, reiterated throughout the meeting.

While architect Jake Frankhouser heeded those words while detailing an alternative plan of his own design, many residents sidetracked the meeting by rallying against the plan in general.

Funk argued that the strict interpretation of the zoning ordinance code created an extraordinary hardship for the gas chain, which will bring 12 pumps to the corner.

Kent resident Elizabeth Culotta doesn’t feel the same sympathy for Sheetz. “That’s what happens when you consolidate lots,” she said, arguing that the need for variances was self-created.

Aside from the Sheetz reps, no one argued for approval of the variances.

Contact public affairs reporter John Hitch at [email protected].Brock Harrington also contributed to this story.