"Location, location, location" was the axiom the Mahoning Township board of supervisors stressed to township resident Frank Chickilly of Oak Grove Road who approached the board with questions about opening a business on his property.
"An official of Mahoning Township who I approached about the idea told me it would be denied and I want to know why. There are six businesses around me so I don't understand why I would be denied," said Chickilly during the public comment.
"I was the one who talked to you," said Zoning Officer LeRoy Leibenguth, who was present at the meeting.
Leibenguth explained to the board and Chickilly that he told the resident he would need to apply for a permit.
"I would be required to deny it as it is zoned R-2, which is light residential. You would then need to apply for a variance with the zoning hearing board who would hear your case, but that will cost you $600 or $700 and that money is non-refundable. I told you that if the variance is denied, which it could be due to the amount of traffic in that area, you would be out the money as it is not refundable."
Chickilly said he didn't understand how he could be denied when there were a half dozen businesses around him.
"They are around you but the hairdresser and hotdog shops and the other lot all have variances on your side of the road. The mall, tire business, race track and farmers' market are on the other side of the road which is zoned commercial," said Supervisor George Stawnyczyj.
Chickilly asked what options he had.
Stawnyczyj said there were two courses of action for what he wanted to do either applying for a variance or trying to get the lot rezoned. The first option is the less costly but depends on the decision of the zoning hearing board.
"We have no jurisdiction over them," Stawnyczyj said.
Solicitor Tom Nanovic explained that the other option would require notices to all surrounding residents, advertising and a public hearing which could be quite expensive and in the end the supervisors would have to decide whether or not to change the zoning.
"I don't know where exactly your property is so it is hard for me to give you any details," he added.
Stawnyczyj looked up the approximate location on the map saying that if it was in the middle of the zone it would probably be more difficult to rezone than if it bordered a commercial zone.
"If it's in the middle it would be considered spot zoning, which is not allowed," he said.
After locating the lot's approximate location, he found it to be in the middle of R-2 opposite the commercial zoning of the businesses Chickilly mentioned.
"If it was near another zoning boundary, it would be easier to rezone," Stawnyczyj said.
Nanovic told Chickilly that his course of action was his choice, but added that the money would not be refundable either way and there was no way anyone could foretell or predict the outcome of either a variance or an attempted rezoning.
"You will need to be able to show a hardship with your property to get a variance, but at least you can present a case and if the board finds in your favor, you will receive your variance. No one can tell you though how that body will decide."
Supervisor Frank Ruch observed that this strip along with the rest of the township is currently being reviewed by the central county comprehensive plan committee and they might decide it should be rezoned.
Stawnyczyj said, "That's only a recommendation. We aren't bound by it."
In the end, Nanovic recommended that he think about which avenue to pursue and if it was the variance he wanted to get which would probably be the lesser involved of the two options, the necessary first step is the zoning officers' denial of the permit.
Chickilly thanked the board for their input at the conclusion of the discussion but made no mention which if any avenue he will pursue.